Fri, Sep 07, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Taiwanese oncologist develops cheap, high-precision cancer therapy system

Staff writer, with CNA

A New York-based Taiwanese radiation oncologist said on Tuesday he has developed a high-precision robotic image-guided therapy system called Arc-Knife, which offers the most cost-effective cancer treatment.

Clifford Chao (趙坤山), chairman of the Combined Program in Radiation Oncology at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital, said the therapy system can map the exact location of a tumor and accurately direct radiation toward malignant cells without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.

After five years of painstaking development, Arc-Knife’s breakthrough technology is now mature enough for mass production, Chao said.

The technology has already drawn interest from foreign investors, but Chao said he wishes to bring the system to Taiwan to contribute to the country’s biotechnology sector.

Traditional radiation therapy uses X-ray beams that go through the cancerous tissue, destroying both healthy and cancerous areas along the path of the beam, he said.

In order to block the radioactive beams, thick walls are built around the therapy equipment, which takes up a huge chunk of space in a hospital, Chao added.

As for the more advanced proton therapy, it enables targeted radiation beams that kill the cancerous tissues while avoiding hurting healthy tissues, he said.

However, this therapy costs at least US$30 million just to introduce one proton device to a hospital in New York, which most general hospitals cannot afford, he added.

In contrast, Arc-Knife enables both targeted radiation beams and costs 1.6 percent and 2.5 percent of the cost of traditional radiation therapy and proton therapy devices, respectively, Chao said.

It is cheaper because “beam stoppers” are inserted in Arc-Knife equipment, which drastically reduce the thickness of the concrete shield walls, from 150cm in other devices to 25cm, he said.

That means the equipment no longer needs to be placed in a bunker-like room, making the technology easily adoptable in most hospitals without having to remodel their existing facilities, which drives down costs dramatically, Chao said.

In addition, Arc-Knife is more compact in size. It is about 2.5m high, compared with traditional radiation therapy equipment that is up to 5m high, he said.

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