UPDATE : Friday, October 18, 2019
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‘Expensive immunotherapies are not cure-all’
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2019.06.24 14:46
  • Updated 2019.06.24 14:46
  • comments 0

“Immunotherapies are increasingly drawing attention, but they cannot solve all problems. They have side effects, and they are costly. They work in a limited number of patients, and, in many cases, they need other agents in combination. Immunotherapies are just byproducts of the efforts to get customized cancer treatments.”

So said Chung Hyun-cheol, chairman of the board of directors at Korea Cancer Association (KCA), in his speech on costly immunotherapies, which came under the spotlight for a possibility of complete cure in cancer patients. He shared his opinions during a news conference at a Seoul hotel on Friday.

Chung Hyun-cheol (center), chairman of the board of directors at Korea Cancer Association (KCA), speaks at a news conference in Seoul, Friday.

As immunotherapies’ effects became widely known, patients are rushing to use them off-label. Patient groups are demanding the expansion of reimbursements of immunotherapies that cost between 10 million won ($8,628) and 100 million won a year.

“I feel the need to deliver accurate information and knowledge about immunotherapies for patients,” Chung said, adding that patients should not expect too much from highly priced immunotherapies.

“There are patients who must use immunotherapies. However, some of them find it difficult to use the therapies because of the high cost. We are telling the government they should support cancer patients with an expansion of reimbursement, based on facts,” he added.

KCA has held an international conference since 2014. This year, KCA’s 45th academic conference and fifth international cancer conference gathered 1,600 cancer researchers from 22 countries for sharing the latest cancer research works.

This year’s conference provided an opportunity to look at the latest studies on immunotherapies, cancer genetics, and mediation research. It also had sessions where cancer experts in surgery, internal medicine, and radiology oncology gathered to yield the best results for various cancers that need a multidisciplinary approach.

The participants also talked about what to discuss under the “cancer-related society consultative body,” created by 25 cancer-related societies, including KCA in 2017. In the session, experts had presentations on rare cancer and complementary and alternative therapies for cancer patients.

KCA also had a session for “Exchange and cooperation of oncology between South and North Korea” for the first time.

At the inter-Korean healthcare sessions, Korea University Professor Kim Sin-gon talked about why physicians should pay attention to healthcare issues in the North, and Seoul National University Hospital Professor Shin Hee-young, on the status of the North’s cancer treatment.

Lee Yoon-sang, head of Nanum International, an NGO, presented her experience of visiting the North for more than 100 medical projects.

pkt77@docdocdoc.co.kr

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