"Gastric cancer is one of the most common cancers especially in Asia. Hence, my goal is to improve the outcomes of patients with gastric cancer."
After graduating from the Faculty of Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1991, Prof So received his surgical training at National University Hospital, Singapore. Here, he was trained in upper gastrointestinal surgery, surgical oncology, bariatric surgery, therapeutic endoscopy and minimally invasive surgery.
He went on to fellowship training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA and was later appointed as visiting consultant surgeon in Esophageal and Gastric Surgery at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
He also received fellowship training in gastric and esophageal cancer surgery in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. He is the pioneer in endoscopic surgery for early esophageal and gastric cancers, robotic surgery and Peroral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM) for Achalasia in Singapore.
Furthering advancements in gastric surgery
Prof So's special interests are in gastric and esophageal cancers. To this end, he established a multidisciplinary program for esophageal and gastric cancers (Upper GI Tumour Group) in 2005.
As part of efforts to improve patient outcomes and recovery times as well as raise the quality of life after surgery, Prof So has pioneered several surgical procedures that use small incisions and flexible cameras and tools.
These include peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM), minimally invasive surgery for gastric cancer, intraperitoneal chemotherapy and pressurised intraperitoneal aerosol chemotherapy (PIPAC).
These result in less pain and blood loss, shorter hospital stays and recovery times, as well as smaller scars. This form of surgery requires specialised training and tools.
Adding to the field of gastric cancer research
He received a Gold Award at the annual scientific meeting of the National Healthcare Group and is invited regularly to speak at events like the International Gastric Cancer Congress, Annual Scientific Meetings of Japanese Gastric Cancer Association, Korean International Gastric Cancer Week, American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), American Society of Gastrointestinal E ndoscopy (ASGE), Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), and World Congress of Endoscopic Surgery.
He is founding president of the Asia-Pacific Gastro-esophageal Cancer Congress in 2006. In 2013, he was the council member of the Consensus Meeting at the 10th International Gastric Cancer Congress, held at Verona, Italy.
He is also a founding member of Asia-Pacific Bariatric Surgery Society. Prof So is a member of editorial board of medical journals such as Gastric Cancer, Journal of Gastric Cancer and Translational Medicine.
Prof So is one of the lead principal investigators of Singapore Gastric Cancer Consortium (SGCC). SGCC has won multiple major grants from NMRC and has become a leading research group in gastric cancer globally with numerous publications in many top-tiered journals.
Prof So is also a prominent surgeon-scientist in the field of peritoneal carcinomatosis (PC). PC is a common complication for many cancers including gastric, colon and ovarian cancers. Dr So is a pioneer in intraperitoneal chemotherapy (IPC) and pressurized intraperitoneal aerosol chemotherapy (PIPAC) for PC. He established a Peritoneal Cancer program at National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) which provides multidisciplinary treatment for patients with PC. He performed the first PIPAC in Asia in 2016. To foster research collaboration, Prof So founded Singapore Peritoneal Oncology Study Group (SPOS), a national network of oncologists, surgeons and scientists to promote research on PC. Prof So is also a founding executive member of International Society for the Study of Peritoneum and Pleura (ISSPP) based in Europe. He was the president of the 1st Scientific Congress of ISSPP which was held successfully in Singapore in 2019.
He was the Lead Principal Investigator of EXPEL Study, an international randomised controlled trial involving five countries and 23 institutions on extensive peritoneal lavage for prevention of peritoneal relapse after gastrectomy for gastric cancer. The study was presented at the plenary session of the Gastrointestinal Symposium of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and published at Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2020. In recognition of these contributions, Prof So received the peritoneal prize by the International Society for the Study of Peritoneum and Pleura (ISSPP) in 2020 which recognises the top researcher in the world in the field of PC.
Prof So has published more than 210 peer reviewed scientific papers (65 papers as first, last/corresponding author with H Index of 47 8578 citations, Google Scholar, January 2022). His research has been published in many Tier-1 medical journals such as Lancet, Nature, Cell, Nature Genetics, Gastroenterology, Gut, Cancer Discovery, Annals of Surgery, British Journal of Surgery and JAMA Surgery. He has received over S$15 million research grants for his research work from NMRC, NRF and SMART. Prof So was awarded the Yaya Cohen Memorial Lecture by College of Surgeons, Singapore in 2018 and received a Gold Award at the annual scientific meeting of the National Healthcare Group.
Prof So serves as the editor for Gastric Cancer, an official journal of International Gastric Cancer Association (IF, 7.66) and he is also member of editorial board of Journal of Gastric Cancer, Cancers, Frontiers in Oncology and Translational Medicine. He serves as co- chair, education committee at the International Society of Diseases of Esophagus (ISDE) and is a committee member at the Society of Surgery of Alimentary Tract (SSAT). He is also a core member of International Esodata Study Group, a study group from the leading institutions of the world to benchmark the quality of esophageal cancer surgery.