The Taipei Medical University (TMU) has established the nation’s first university-based clinical pediatric oncology program focusing on solid tumors, the facility said yesterday.
The program aims to increase the survival rates of children and adolescents with solid tumors — tumors that grow on organ systems — improve treatment methods and provide patient-centric medical services, the university said.
The research will be conducted by a multidisciplinary pediatric oncology team convened by TMU chair professor James Miser, a leading pediatric oncologist and the former chief executive officer of the City of Hope National Medical Center in the US.
One of the notable cases researched by the team involved a seven-year-old boy who was diagnosed with brain tumor after he started to experience frequent headaches, dizziness and nausea two years ago, said Liu Yen-lin (劉彥麟), an attending physician of pediatric hermatology and oncology at TMU Hospital.
“After the first surgery to remove the brain tumor, the team took over the case. They decided to treat the patient with oral chemotherapy to eliminate the residual cancer cells before performing another surgery a half-year later to remove the tumor completely,” Liu said, adding that the boy is recovering well and receiving routine follow-up checks.
According to the latest data published by the Department of Health last week, 102 children aged one to 14 died last year as a result of malignant tumors, making them the second-most common cause of death in children and the most common cause of death due to disease in children.
“Approximately 500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in Taiwan,” Miser said, adding that more than 50 percent of those cases involve solid tumors.
Miser said that more than 80 percent of children with cancer can be cured, which is a higher percentage than when he first started to treat young cancer patients in 1973.
While childhood cancer treatment in Taiwan has improved significantly, “30 percent of solid tumor childhood cancers, such as brain tumors, neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma and hepatoblastoma remain unresponsive to current treatment methods,” Liu said.
The strength of the program is its emphasis on the importance of a multidisciplinary team to research treatment methods for solid tumors, the university said.
“As a clinical team, we are hoping to develop a bedside-to-bench research approach that transforms clinical problems back to foundational questions that will be researched by professionals from diverse fields,” Liu said.