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Advanced testing covered by NHI to benefit 20,000 cancer patients a year

05/14/2024 09:14 PM
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CNA photo May 14, 2024
CNA photo May 14, 2024

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Around 20,000 cancer patients per year will benefit from more advanced Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) testing included in the coverage provided by the National Health Insurance (NHI) system, the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) said Tuesday.

Testing for cancer, which has long been the leading cause of death in Taiwan, now sees a significant advancement with the introduction of NGS testing for 19 types of cancer covered by the NHI system since May 1, according to the NHRI's press release.

The NHI-covered NGS testing assesses cancers including lung cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and leukemia, and aid in the selection of appropriate targeted therapy or the assessment for bone marrow transplant suitability, as per information provided by the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA).

NGS testing breaks down DNA samples collected from patients into pieces, and then links them back together at the computer-end to conduct analysis, said James Yang (楊志新), Superintendent of National Taiwan University's Cancer Center, at the press conference on Tuesday.

"After approximately 400 to 1,000 sequencing cycles, we compare it with normal DNA to determine which parts of the tumor DNA have variations. With these variations, we can identify which type of cancer it [the tumor] belongs to," Yang explained.

Since NGS testing is now included in NHI coverage, physicians can make more comprehensive clinical decisions, significantly improving patient treatment outcomes, while reducing ineffective medication use, Yang added.

NHIA Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said two types of data will be collected from the NGS testing, one is data directly applicable for clinical purposes by physicians, and the other is raw data that is stored in National Biobank Consortium of Taiwan for subsequent research on drug development or testing methods.

According to the NHIA regulations, each individual covered by NHI is entitled to receive NGS testing once per cancer type during their lifetime, with the option for retesting in the event of the diagnosis of another type of cancer.

(By Sunny Lai)

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