Taipei, March 23 (CNA) The Taiwan Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology signed an agreement on academic exchanges with a Japanese leading-edge cancer therapy center Saturday.
Under the agreement, the society will introduce information on heavy-charged particle beam treatment of Saga Heavy Ion Medical Accelerator in Tosu (Saga HIMAT) in Japan to local patients and help them get the treatment in Japan.
Jen Yee-min, president of the society and a doctor at the Tri-Service General Hospital, noted that cancer has long the number one cause of death in Taiwan, with treatments including tumor removal, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Among the types of radiation therapy, there is photon beam (including gamma beam and X beam), and particle beam (including proton beam and heavy-charged particle beam) treatment.
Jen said that proton beam and heavy-charged particle beam can upgrade treatment efficiency and have fewer side effects than X beam therapy, which is currently used in Taiwan.
He said the damage done to cancerous cells by heavy-charged particle beam is several times that of other beams, but causes less pain and side effects, and does not require the patient to be hospitalized.
Heavy-charged particle beam has shown good results in the treatment of liver cancer, early lung cancer, prostate cancer, bone and soft tissue tumors and head tumors, he said.
However, he went on, there is no particle beam therapy in Taiwan at present and the country can learn from Japan's experience in this field for more than a decade.
Jen said that heavy-charged particle beam therapy is even better than proton beam therapy, with the damage to cancerous cell two to three times that of the proton beam or X beam therapies.
The treatment process can also be shortened, he went on, citing the example of lung cancer, which requires more than 20 sessions under the present treatment, reducable to 15 sessions with proton beam treatment and only five sessions using heavy-charged particle beam treatment.
The cost of the equipment for heavy-charged paricle beam, however, is three times that of proten beam treatment.
The equipment for proton beam treatment is around NT$3 billion (US$100.48 million) compared with NT$10 billion for equipment for heavy-charged particle beam treatment.
A course of proton beam treatment costs NT$300,000, while a course of heavy-charge particle beam treatment will cost about NT$1 million.
Jen said that heavy-charged particle beam treatment can be provided for between 500 and 1,000 patients a year.
Yen Sang-hue, director of the Cancer Tumor Center at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said there are presently four heavy-charged particle beam treatment facilities in operation around the world -- one in Germany and three in Japan.
Saga HIMAT, the first such center built jointly by private enterprise and local government, will open May 29, and start to accept cancer patients in July.
Meanwhile, Chang Kung Memorial Hospital's Linkou branch is currently planning to set up a proton treatment center, which is scheduled to open in January 2014.
Hung Chih-hung, director of the hospital's department of radiation oncology, said it will initially select six patients for treatment.
Hung noted that cancer patients increase by between 80,000 and 90,000 a year in Taiwan, and between 30 and 40 percent of whom will need radiotherapy after assessment. Among them, between 6,000 and 9,000 should be able to get proton beam treatment, he said.
After the center opens, he estimated, it will be able accept between 1,600 and 1,800 patients a year.
(By Lung Jui-yun and Lilian Wu)