Narayanan Gopalakrishna Iyer


Head, Division of Medical Sciences, National Cancer Centre Singapore

Head, Department of Head & Neck Surgery, Division of Surgery & Surgical Oncology


Education Qualifications: MBBS (Hons), PhD (Cambridge), FRCS (Gen), FAMS

Dr Iyer graduated top of his medical school class at NUS in 1998, with Honours. He subsequently went on to complete a PhD in molecular carcinogenesis at the University of Cambridge under Prof Carlos Caldas. Trained as a General surgeon at Singapore General Hospital he went on to two separate head and neck surgical fellowships at Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Australia and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre (MSKCC), New York, USA. At the end of his fellowship at MSKCC, he was awarded the Michael Burt award for being the best fellow in the surgical division both in terms of operative skill and research output. 

Currently, Dr Gopal Iyer works as a head and neck surgeon in National Cancer Centre and Singapore General Hospital. He is also Senior Consultant of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Head and Neck Centre. Dr Gopal has extensive experience in the surgical management of head and neck cancers, as well as surgery for benign diseases in the head and neck (including thyroid, salivary gland and skin lesions). He performs complex resections and reconstructions of cancers involving the oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx, hypopharynx, nasopharynx, paranasal sinuses and neck. He is involved in the robotic and endoscopic head and neck surgical program having performed a number of these procedures locally and mentored the first ever robotic thyroidectomy in Australia in Feb 2012.

Professional Appointments and Committee Memberships:

  • Senior Consultant, Division of Surgical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore
  • Head and Neck Cancer Society (Singapore), President, 2014
  • American Head and Neck Society, Member, 2010
  • American Association for Endocrine Surgeons, Member, 2009
  • Academy of Medicine, Fellow, 2008
  • Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (General Surgery) Fellow, 2008


  • SingHealth Excellence Award (Distinguished Researcher Award), 2018
  • National Medical Research Council 2017 Award – Investigator Category, 2017
  • SingHealth Manpower Development Plan (HMDP) Award 2016 – Head & Neck Surgery Management: A multidisciplinary team approach, USA, 2016
  • Visiting Professor, Head & Neck Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, NY, 2015
  • SingHealth Residency in SingHealth Excel (RiSE) 2014 (General Surgery), 2015
  • Outstanding Faculty Award, Residency in SingHealth Excels, 2014
  • National Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Award, 2014
  • Clinician-Scientist Award, National Medical Research Council, 2013
  • Wong Hock Boon-Society Outstanding Mentor Award, National University of Singapore, 2013
  • Soo Khee Chee Publication Award, SingHealth Foundation, 2013
  • Proctored/supervised first ever robotic thyroidectomy in Australia at Macquarie University Hospital, Sydney on 3rd Feb 2012 
  • SingHealth Publish Medical Research Publication Award, 2012
  • SingHealth Talent Development Fund Medical Research Publication Award, 2011
  • Best presentation, New York Head and Neck Society Annual Meeting (co-first author, presented by Dr Luc Morris), 2011
  • Best poster, American Association of Endocrine Surgeons (co-first author, presented by Dr Luc Morris), 2011
  • Young Investigator Award (Clinical Science) from Singapore General Hospital- supervisor to Brian Tian (medical student/presenter), 2011
  • Michael E Burt award for operative, clinical, teaching and research excellence from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – awarded to the best fellow overall in the Division of Surgery, 2010
  • Poster of Distinction, American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, 2010
  • Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal -best graduate throughout course of study for M.B.B.S.  Gibbs Gold Medal -first in general proficiency for 4 professional exams Singapore Medical Association Silver Medal -first in final professional examination Ciba-Geigy Prize -first in general proficiency throughout complete course of 5 years of study Second Mekie Book Prize (Surgery) -second best in surgery Nestle Book Prize (Paediatrics) -best in paediatrics clinical clerkship, 1998

Leadership positions / roles in Education: 

  • Programme Director, Clinician Scientist Academic & Professional Development Programme

Research Interests:

Translational Research:

  • 2D, 3D and PDX models of oral squamous cell cancers
  • Long non-coding RNAs as therapeutic strategy in squamous cell cancers
  • Single cell/tumour heterogeneity analysis of treatment resistance and metastasis in oral cancers
  • Genomics of field cancerisation
  • Molecular profiling and genomic sequencing of young tongue cancers, recurrent oral cancer
  • Modulation tyrosine kinase inhibitor response in head and neck cancers
  • Prognostic biomarkers in head and neck cancers
  • Novel drug targets and pathways in head and neck cancers 

Clinical Research:

  • Trial coordinator (translation research) for multi-centre phase III trial comparing efficacy of chmoRT versus chemoRT plus nimotuximab in post-operative patients with high-risk head and neck cancers IHN01 trial)
  • Radiation induced cancers after treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Selected Publications:

Ashford BG, Clark J, Gupta R, Iyer NG, Yu B, Ranson M. Reviewing the genetic alterations in high-risk cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma: A search for prognostic markers and therapeutic targets. Head Neck. 2017 Jul;39(7):1462-1469. doi: 10.1002/hed.24765. Epub 2017 Apr 3. 

See A, Iyer NG, Tan NC, Teo C, Ng J, Soo KC, Tan HK. Distant metastasis as the sole initial manifestation of well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma.Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Jul; 274(7):2877-2822 

Wong TH, Skanthakumar T, Nadkarni N, Nguyen HV, Iyer NG. Survival of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma by housing subsidy in a tiered public housing system. Cancer. 2017 Jun 1;123(11):1998-2005. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30557 

Ong CJ, Shannon NB, Mueller S. Lek SM, Qiu X. Chong FT, Li K, Koh KKN, Tay GCA, Skanthakumar T, Hwang JSG, Lim TKH, Ang MK, Tan DSW, Tan NC, Tan HK, Soo KC, Iyer NG. A three gene immunohistochemical panel serves as an adjunct to clinical staging of patients with head and neck cancer. Oncotarget. 2017 Jun 19. Doi: 10.18632/Oncotarget. 18568 [Epub ahead of print] 

Ng JH, Iyer NG, Tan MH, Edgren G. Changing epidemiology of oral squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue: A global study. Head Neck. 2017 Feb;39(2):297-304 

Tian B, Iyer NG, Tan HK, Tay AC, Soo KC, Tan NC. Novel technique of creating a seal for the vacuum- assisted closure system application in complex head and neck wounds. Head Neck. 2016 Dec;38(12): E2523-E2526. 

Jang JH, Tan HK, Iyer NG, Soo KC, Tan NC. Nasopharyngectomy with operating microscope: A case series. Am J Otolaryngol. 2017 Jan - Feb;38(1):82-86. 

Tan WL, Jain A, Takano A, Newell EW, Iyer NG, Lim WT, Tan EH, Zhai W, Hillmer AM, Tam WL, Tan DS. Novel therapeutic targets on the horizon for lung cancer. Lancet Oncol. 2016 Aug;17(8):e347-62. 

Wee HE, Azhar R, Tang PY, Teo TH, Iyer NG, Tan HK, Tan NC. Diagnostic pitfall: Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the tongue presenting as a isolated hypoglossal nerve palsy, case report and literature review. Int J Surg Case Rep. 2016; 25:102-5. 

Morosin T, Ashford B, Ranson M, Gupta R, Clark J, Iyer NG, Spring K. Circulating tumour cells in regionally metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma: A pilot study. Oncotarget. 2016 Jun Epub ahead of print)