Cheaper, more accurate cancer treatment developed by hospital

Photo: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taipei Veterans General Hospital has introduced a new cancer genome testing service that promises nearly 100-per cent accuracy in selecting the optimal cancer treatment and does so at nearly a third of the previous cost.

Such self-funded detection services - formally known as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) tests - previously cost up to NT$80,000 (S$3,000), but the new method developed by TVGH and Lihpao Life Science Corp. is expected to cut this to approximately NT$25,000, likely by the end of this year.

"We are providing more accurate results and reducing the cost," said Lihpao's Director of Research and Development Tang Chien-hsiang.

'Personalized medicine'

Chou stressed the importance of targeting therapy to a patient's unique genetic assembly, or in other words, "personalized medicine" - the basis of the new treatment services.

Common NGS procedures determine the existence of mutated genes after scanning 300 times, but TVGH generates 500 sequences before identifying mutated genes. "Our approach is more exacting," said Chou Teh-ying, chief of molecular pathology at TVGH.

Chou said the personalized targeting approach would increase treatment effectiveness, improve living quality and extend the lives of cancer patients.

Successful Results

Around 35 people have taken the test at TVGH, according to hospital staff. They are mostly end-stage cancer patients, who have already tried multiple ineffective methods and wish to find a more accurate treatment plan, said Chou.

In a previous case, a 38-year-old male patient found his cancer had recurred and spread to his bones, a year and a half after getting rid of his lung cancer cells. Even after six rounds of chemotherapy, the treatment failed to control the disease.

However, after undergoing the genome test, a rearrangement of the ROS1 gene was detected within his tumour. After being treated accordingly, his tumour shrunk within two months.

Cancer continues to top the list of the 10 leading causes of death according to recent statistics for 2015 from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Approximately one in every 233 people in Taiwan is diagnosed with cancer, and cases will continue to increase more than 50 per cent in the next 20 years, TVGH staff predict.

When asked about recent advances made in cancer survival rate forecasting by an interdisciplinary research team at National Taiwan University (NTU), announced on Oct 29, Tang said the research may prove valuable in the future, since their team evaluates survival rates and treatment effectiveness according to such academic studies.