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TVGH unveils first cancer center of its kind in Taiwan

Source: Taipei Times by Lee I-chia

Taipei Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) yesterday unveiled the nation’s first heavy ion therapy center, saying 2 percent of its treatment capacity would be reserved for socially disadvantaged people.

The center cost NT$4.5 billion (US$146.04 million), the hospital said.

The hospital launched its heavy particle cancer treatment center project in 2009, and began constructing the center in 2019, hospital superintendent Chen Wei-ming (陳威明) said.

With the help of a Japanese technical team, the hospital completed the center in a record 15 months, Chen said, adding that the installation and verification of equipment was completed five months afterward.

It is the 14th operating heavy ion therapy center in the world and began treating patients at noon yesterday.

There are many treatment methods for cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy, medication therapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy, Chen said.

Heavy ion therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy, he said.

It uses carbon ions which are 12 times heavier than protons and can deliver more radiation to tumors with high precision, causing more damage to cancerous cells, he said.

The therapy has a shorter treatment course, is painless and allows patients to return to their normal lives faster than other treatments, Chen said.

Many countries covered by the government’s New Southbound Policy have expressed an interest in the center, he said.

The Mayo Clinic in the US has sent experts to the hospital three times and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last month, Chen said.

The hospital has also signed an MOU with the Taiwan Space Agency, because the center can assist in the radiation protection verification of space components, he said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the opening of the center also marks an important milestone in medical cooperation between Taiwan and Japan.

Previously, people in Taiwan who needed heavy ion therapy had to travel to Japan, but now they can receive treatment in Taiwan, while people in other countries can also visit the nation for treatment, she said.

The center is “the last piece of the puzzle” in Taiwan’s precision cancer radiation therapy, and hopefully medical centers nationwide would form a “cancer radiation therapy national team” to provide care to cancer patients and enhance Taiwan’s medical competitiveness globally, Tsai said.

She also thanked the companies that made donations to help build the center.

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