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Heavy ion cancer therapy to arrive in Korea in 2022
  • By Lee Hye-seon
  • Published 2018.03.30 15:17
  • Updated 2018.03.30 15:17
  • comments 0

Korean cancer patients will be able to receive a state-of-the-art heavy ion therapy at Severance Hospital as early as in 2022.

Yonsei University Health System (YUHS) signed a contract with Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions and DK Medical Solutions to adopt Toshiba’s heavy ion therapy system at Yonsei University in Seoul, Thursday.

Heavy ion therapy is considered the best cancer treatment available for now, observers say.

The heavy ion treatment system accelerates carbon-ion beam to up to 70 percent of the speed of light and exposes a concentrated dose of radiation to the targeted cancer tissues. As soon as carbon ions reach cancer tissues, they emit radiation energy to destroy the DNA of cancer cells and cancer tissues only.

Heavy ion is 12 times heavier than the proton, which raises the cancer cell death rate by three times that of the proton.

Executives celebrate signing an agreement to adopt the heavy ion therapy system at Severance Hospital in 2022. They are (clockwise from left of the back row) Satoshi Tsunakawa, CEO of Toshiba; Hur Dong-soo, chairman of Yonsei University; Kim Yong-hak, president of Yonsei University; Lee Chang-kyu, president of DK Medical Solutions; Yoon Do-heum, CEO of Yonsei University Hospital System; and Mamoru Hatazawa, corporate vice president at Toshiba.

Heavy ion therapy offers a short treatment period. While conventional radiation therapies or proton treatments require 30 times of treatment on average, heavy ion therapy needs only 12 times. Existing radiation therapies take about five to seven weeks but heavy ion treatment needs one-time radiation for early-stage lung cancer, twice for liver cancer, and three weeks at maximum for prostate cancer or head and neck cancer.

First introduced in 1994, more than 20,000 cancer patients have received heavy ion therapies. Nature, the world-renowned science academic journal, called heavy ion therapies “sharpshooters.”

However, there are only 10 heavy ion therapy systems in the world now. Japan has five, Germany, two, China, two, and Italy, one. Austria is getting ready to adopt one, and China and Japan are planning to get more.

The heavy ion therapy system, to be available at Severance Hospital, has two rotating gantry rooms, the first in the world, and one horizontally-fixed beam treatment room.

The two rotating gantry rooms will enable physicians to shoot heavy ions to cancer tissues that might have been difficult to target with a conventional fixed system. With the machine, the hospital will be able to offer more efficient and excellent treatment for more cancer patients, YUHS said.

The new treatment system enables patients to maintain the posture precisely, minimizing the impact on surrounding healthy organs. Accordingly, the system reduces side effects significantly.

The heavy ion therapy, which needs more than 300 billion won investment, will be built on 35,000-square meter land, at the parking lot site behind Severance Hospital’s Cardiovascular Building. The facility will be a seven-story building with five floors underground. The treatment is expected to begin in 2022 for the first time in Korea.

To introduce the heavy ion treatment as early as possible, YUHS will build the building in a “fast-track” system where the engineering work and designing will be simultaneously carried out.

YUHS has been pushing to introduce the heavy ion treatment system since July last year. After signing a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS), the hospital has been preparing clinical work, research, and education.

“Heavy-ion therapy, known as the most advanced cancer treatment in the world, will deliver the promise of patient-centered care in an era of incurable cancer and super-aging society,” YUHS CEO and President Yoon Do-heum said. “Through the introduction of the heavy-ion therapy system, YUHS will lead innovations in cancer therapy as we did when we opened the nation’s first cancer center.”


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