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New Tech Devices for Cancer Treatment in Taiwan

Researchers at Taiwan’s National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) have developed an innovative system of clinical treatment for breast cancer that reduces skin burns, leaves no scars and causes few side effects for patients.

According to the NHRI, the technology consists of devices including a ring-shaped High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) transducer, a commercial power amplifier, a mechanical positioner and graphical user-interface control software. The HIFU ablation is a non-invasive therapeutic technique that uses non-ionizing ultrasonic waves to heat or ablate tissues, such as tumours, and requires no surgery. It has emerged in recent years as a non-invasive new treatment for breast cancer.

The NHRI’s new technology reduces treatment time and improves high-precision ablation under imaging guidance, and the ring-shaped HIFU transducer can also minimise damage to chest tissue, the lungs or the heart.

The system significantly increases efficiency as it reduces time. With this system, the ablation of a 5-centimetre tumour can take just 30 minutes. According to the NHRI, the removal of a 3-5 cm cancerous tumour using a conventional HIFU technique can take up to two hours to complete.

In Taiwan, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, the institution said, noting that clinical treatments include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and combination therapy. However, women with breast cancer suffer from a risk of complications, a high re-excision rate, an occasional need for breast reconstruction after surgery, and possible side effects from radiation and chemotherapy, Hence the development of new technology that is safer and has fewer side effects is essential.

And even though the HIFU procedure has in recent years become a highly popular option among patients, the NHRI said roughly 30%-40% of them still face the risk of musculoskeletal or heartburns. The system prototype is a promising tool for clinical implementation. Hence, the head of the research institution said they are seeking partners for technology transfer so that its prototype system could reach the mass market.

The Taiwanese government helps both public and private hospitals to develop cutting-edge medical equipment to improve healthcare. Tri-Service General Hospital, for instance, uses 3D Virtual Reality (VR) Neuronavigation for brain surgeries. VR, which gained popularity for its use in video games, is utilised for intraoperative monitoring and navigation systems.

Similar technology is also applied to neuro spinal surgeries. By using an O-arm imaging system, surgeons can see real-time 3D images of a patient’s spine during surgery. The procedure has a 98% of accuracy rate, with a revision rate of 2%.

Another hospital, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, drive excellence in treating patients with irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmia, through a radiofrequency ablation technique.  Doctors use a 3D mapping system during the catheter ablation to precisely identify the source of the arrhythmia.

Digital health has been growing significantly in Taiwan, including the adoption of AI in the medical sector. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taipei City-based research organisation is promoting the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in academic institutions, nongovernmental groups and enterprises through data exchanges and open-source projects. Taiwan’s leading role in the global supply of semiconductors means the country is ideally placed to integrate the latest and greatest technologies into the biotech and medical sectors.

Healthcare is the ideal field to expand the use of AI given the technology’s ability to quickly conduct big data analyses and modelling. Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) Research Database contains over two decades worth of data and images to assist in this process.

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