This is an excerpt from an article published on Sunday Vibes/Lifestyle pull out of New Sunday Times about our CEO and founder Professor Doctor Teo Soo-Hwang, yesterday, 16th April 2017. The article was beautifully written by OON YEOH. Thank you so much for such an inspiring read.


CANCER is a disease that afflicts all regardless of nationality. Yet, the general sense among Malaysians is that if there is to be a cure for cancer, it will come from the West.

Few people realise that we have an organisation called Cancer Research Malaysia that is doing cutting-edge work on finding a cure for cancer. It’s been around since 2001 and has made some significant progress. It also has many ambitious targets set for this year.

Its founder Dr Teo Soo-Hwang speaks to SAVVY about her research organisation and shares some insight into the different types of cancers that afflict Asians disproportionately.

How did you end up in cancer research?

My parents always encouraged us to excel in whatever we do, with a view towards improving the lives of people around us.

Both my elder brother and younger sister chose to become doctors but I decided on a different path. I got an Asean Scholarship to attend secondary school and junior college in Singapore. Then I secured a Sime Darby Foundation scholarship to study natural sciences at the University of Cambridge.

Upon completion of my PhD in 1996, I wanted to focus on cancer research and chose to work in the laboratory of Professor Stephen Jackson, the youngest ever professor at Cambridge. Together, we identified new genes which were previously not implicated in cancer.

What led you to starting up a research centre in Malaysia?

In 1998, I was approached by Tunku Tan Sri Ahmad Yahaya, then the chief executive of Sime Darby, to consider returning to Malaysia to establish a non-profit cancer research organisation.

He was looking at raising funds in Asia to support research on oral cancer, which affects Asians more than Caucasians, and kills 50 per cent of patients within three years.

Over the next two years, with Toh Puan Dr Aishah Ong, we wrote the concept paper, presented it to funding organisations and successfully obtained RM5 million seed funding from the Tote Board, Petronas, Lim Foundation and Sime Darby to establish Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF) in January 2001.

Is it very much a Malaysian-centric organisation?

CARIF (now called Cancer Research Malaysia) is the first independent, non-profit cancer research organisation which is funded by Malaysians, staffed by Malaysians and focused on conducting Malaysian-specific cancer research.

Our mission is to conduct pioneering research on cancers prevalent in the nation, with potentially far-reaching implications for diagnosis and therapy.

We started with oral cancer but now our research activities include work on breast cancer, the most common cancer in Malaysia; nasopharyngeal cancer, another Asian-centric cancer, and developing new therapies based on natural compounds from Malaysia’s biodiversity.


Read the rest of the article on New Straits Times (click to read).

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