NTU Cancer Center touts successful treatment of Hong Kong leukemia patient

10/07/2020 09:13 PM
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NTU Cancer Center Superintendent James Chih-hsin Yang (right) and the patient, Eric. CNA photo Oct. 7, 2020
NTU Cancer Center Superintendent James Chih-hsin Yang (right) and the patient, Eric. CNA photo Oct. 7, 2020

Taipei, Oct. 7 (CNA) National Taiwan University (NTU) Cancer Center said Wednesday that it recently carried out a successful bone marrow transplant on a leukemia patient from Hong Kong, despite the tight border restrictions and prevention measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 70-year-old patient identified only as Eric, was diagnosed with leukemia last December in Hong Kong and told that he needed a bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, to save his life, the Cancer Center said.

As that procedure is not available in Hong Kong for people over the age of 60, Eric's doctor suggested that he try Taiwan, the center said.

With the help of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Stem Cells Center in Taiwan, Eric was able to make the trip and was admitted to NTU Cancer Center, where he had a hematopoistic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) in August, using the bone marrow of an anonymous donor, according to the center.

At a news conference Wednesday, Eric expressed heartfelt thanks to the medical team at the center and the Tzu Chi stem cell bank for saving his life.

"You are like angels," he said in a choked voice.

Also speaking at the news conference, NTU Cancer Center Deputy Superintendent Chen Jin-shing (陳晉興) said the successful treatment of the patient from Hong Kong exemplified Taiwan's excellent healthcare capabilities, particularly under the current conditions, with the world hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center said it has received enquiries from patients in Canada, Malaysia and Thailand about coming to Taiwan for treatment, but they have not been able to make the trip, due to the tight travel restrictions and other factors pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to NTU Cancer Center Superintendent James Chih-hsin Yang (楊志新), the center plans to increase the number of beds in its bone marrow transplant wing from eight to 30, as part of its plan to develop into an HSCT hub in Asia.

With the support of National Taiwan University Hospital, the center also specializes in the treatment of lung, breast, liver and urothelial cancer, he said.

In a global survey by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Taiwan was ranked as the top country for the treatment of leukemia, with a score of 100, followed by Japan (95) and the United States (79), the center said, citing a 2018 report issued by the medical journal Lancet.

A high survival rate and affordability may have been two of the main factors that boosted Taiwan to the top position in that survey, according to the center.

(By Flor Wang and Chang Hsiung-fung)

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