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Korean cancer center aims to deploy heavy ion therapy in 2022

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
Yonsei Cancer Center in Korea has ambitious plans to take its offerings to the next level, the Center's President Keum Ki-chang told reporters at a news conference at Yonsei University in Shinchon, Seoul.

“Now is the time for quality growth,” he told the assembled reporters according to the Korea Biomedical Review, explaining that present plans call for the unveiling of a heavy ion therapy system in 2022.

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Heavy ion therapy targets tough-to-treat cancers like sarcoma, and those hitting pancreas, lung, and liver. “It will be helpful for tumors that have a high potential for side effects and that are rarely treatable,” Keum noted.

The goal is to make Yonsei a place that “treats and cures cancer well,” he advised, stressing that, “we will not only offer standard therapies but those to treat intractable cancer.”

Yonsei has 13 different cancer centers.

“To advance the cancer hospital, each cancer center should operate innovatively, and the hospital should take responsibility for that. Under this system, I will tear down barriers between departments and grant authority and duty to each center,” he explained.

Plans also call for the onboarding of more CR and MR machines, as well, to cut down on the growing wait times — a byproduct of the rising number of patients using the center.

Its outpatient load has risen at an annual growth rate of 4 percent to 7 percent, up from 490,000 in 2015 to 580,000 in 2018. Inpatient load also grew — rising from 210,000 in 2015 to about 240,000 in 2016, with a ward operation rate that is almost 100 percent.

In March, 2018, Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions (Toshiba ESS), in consortium with Korea's DK Medical Solutions, was awarded a contract to supply the heavy ion therapy system to Yonsei University Health System.

The system has a horizontally-fixed beam treatment room and two rotating gantry treatment rooms.

Heavy ion therapy generates a carbon ion beam that can travel at about 70 percent of the speed of light and deliver its dose of radiation with pinpoint and lethal accuracy to cancerous tissues and minimum damage to nearby healthy tissue, “with fewer fractions compared to other radiotherapies,” according to a Toshiba statement.

Mamoru Hatazawa, vice president of Toshiba ESS, expressed pride over working with Yonsei University Health System, calling it “the most prestigious hospital in Korea,” and adding that, “I am quite confident that our state-of-the-art heavy ion therapy system will contribute to the advanced radiotherapy in YUHS cancer center.”

The heavy ion therapy is “the most advanced cancer treatment in the world, and will deliver the promise of patient-centered care in an era of incurable cancer and super-aging society,” said Do-Heum Yoon, president and CEO of YUHS.

In October, 2018, Hitachi’s first-ever heavy ion beam therapy system went live at the Osaka Heavy Ion Therapy Center in Japan.

"Heavy ion beam therapy has a higher RBE, particularly at the distal edge of Bragg peak, which may permit greater tumor control," Hiroyuki "Henry" Itami, executive general manager of the radiation oncology system division at Hitachi Ltd., told HCB News at the time. "Also, the smaller lateral penumbra may permit a more conformal dose laterally and limit normal tissue damage. Because heavy ion beam requires a larger accelerator, the size and cost compared with protons can be two to three times greater."

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