Various types of cell therapy are expected to be allowed as soon as this month, and they could benefit about 100,000 cancer patients per year, the government said on Sunday.
The new hope for cancer patients and people with other conditions comes after the Regulations Governing the Application of Specific Medical Examination Techniques and Medical Devices were amended in September last year to permit six types of cell therapy for blood cancers, strokes and degenerative joints, among other illnesses.
The amendment was designed to close a loophole that required patients to seek cell therapy abroad, sometimes resulting in disputes due to language barriers and a lack of understanding of the therapy being provided.
Ministry of Health and Welfare Department of Medical Affairs Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said four medical centers have applied to provide cell therapies and the applications are being reviewed.
Approval could be given as soon as the end of the month, the Executive Yuan said in a statement.
Once available, the therapies could be used to help as many as 100,000 cancer patients per year, Shih said.
Taipei Veterans General Hospital Department of Medical Research head Chiou Shih-hwa (邱士華) said cell therapy has been around for about 20 years and can be used together with mainstream medicine to help treat cancer or stroke patients who have exhausted other treatment options.
Because cell therapies have been prohibited in the nation, some terminal cancer patients have sought therapy in other nations at a cost of at least NT$1 million (US$32,435) for each course of treatment, but that can be risky because of the different medical standards and problems with follow-up care back home, Chiou said.
Allowing local hospitals to provide the treatments would be good for patients, the medical sector and hospitals, he said.
Among the six therapies is T-cell immunotherapy for blood malignancies and solid tumors that do not respond to other treatments.
They also include CD34-selected peripheral blood stem cell transplants, used to treat blood cancers such as myeloma and also strokes; bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell transplants used to treat strokes and degenerative joint disease; and autologous chondrocyte implantations to treat knee cartilage defects.
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