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Korea National Cancer Center

> KOREA’S FIRST PROTON THERAPY CENTER

In March 2007, the National Cancer Center (NCC) in Ilsan, Korea, treated its first patients. Until then, cancer patients had to travel to Japan for proton therapy treatment, but in 2002, the Health and Welfare Ministry committed to constructing a proton therapy center as a key component in Korea’s 10-year plan to improve cancer outcomes. “NCC Korea is playing essential roles as the national center in the fight against cancer through research, medical care, support for national cancer control programs, education and training,” said Dr. Kwan Ho Cho, M.D., Director of the center. “It is now able to provide state-of-the art radiotherapy for cancer patients, including proton beam therapy, image-guided radiotherapy (tomotherapy), intensity modulated radiotherapy and three-dimensional conformal brachytherapy”.µ

The facility, the only one of its kind in Korea, is located in Ilsan, north of Seoul, and includes two gantries, which are massive 90-ton rotational frames that deliver a prescribed dose of protons at precise angles in the body to maximize tumor destruction and minimize radiation-related side effects for the patient.

The first patient at the NCC Proton Therapy Center was treated for prostate cancer but the center, using both proton therapy and other treatment modalities, including image guided radiation therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy and stereotactic radiation therapy to treat cancer, also treats breast, liver, lung, head and neck, hepatobiliary and pancreatic cancer and pediatric cancer. Joo-Young Kim, M.D., a pediatric radiation oncologist at the center, says that proton therapy, which allows to save a lot of normal tissue, is actually the only option for children younger than 3, as they cannot be treated with x-rays because their central nervous system is not mature enough to counter the negative effects of radiation on healthy cells.

> NCC today

Today, protons continue to play an important role in delivering comprehensive cancer care to children and adults at the National Cancer Center of Korea (NCC). NCC treated 148 new patients with protons in 2011, 34 of them children. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are sometimes used concurrently with protons, depending on individual patient needs. Protons have been used at NCC since 2007 and have been used to treat many adult tumors and pediatric central nervous system tumors.

NCC clinical staff members are anticipating the arrival in early summer of Pencil Beam Scanning (PBS), which will be installed in one of the center’s two gantry rooms. PBS offers slice-by-slice irradiation of the target tumor with millimeter precision. “We are hoping to have commissioning of our Pencil Beam Scanning system completed by June of this year,” says Joo-Young Kim, “We look forward to working with the system — treatment will be less cumbersome because we will not need to use compensators or apertures, and technicians will not need to go in and out of the treatment room.”

Kim anticipates that PBS will prove to be particularly optimal for treating complex cases, such as large-volume tumors and skull-based chordomas, and for situations where craniospinal irradiation is necessary. “With skull-based chordomas, we need a conformal dose distribution, either with Pencil Beam or IMPT (intensity-modulated proton therapy),” says Kim. “These are very complicated and, as with skull-based tumors, require intense treatment planning.”

 

 

 

Asiana Airlines promote medical tourism

Asiana Airlines, one of Korea's flagship carriers, is paying more attention to the growing number of foreign visitors seeking to receive healthcare and medical services here. In cooperation with hospitals and other medical institutions, the carrier has been promoting Korea as a medical tourism hub by publicizing the nation's advanced medical techniques and facilities.

Asiana looks to become a primary carrier for foreign medical tourists and at the same time contribute to nurturing the high value-added medical industry. The airline has formed a business partnership with 24 hospitals and clinics since April 2009, when it first signed a cooperation agreement with Hanyang University Hospital. It plans to add more medical institutions to the list of its business partners. On June 5, Asiana signed a cooperation agreement with Yonsei University Healthcare System to jointly attract non-Korean patients. Under the pact, both entities will together develop a health checkup program for foreign tourists and implement promotional events abroad.

The carrier will offer discounts to those visiting Yonsei University Healthcare System for healthcare services. In the same way, the medical institution plans to make it more affordable for Asiana passengers to use its medical services. ''We have been actively promoting Korea abroad as an attractive medical tourism destination,'' Asiana Airlines CEO Kim Soo-cheon said. ''By doing so, we have been able to secure this segment of non-Korean visitors. We will continue to boost cooperation with domestic medical institutions to encourage more foreigners to visit Korea to take advantage of advanced healthcare services.''

According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the number of medical tourists will likely reach 250,000 in 2014, up from 211,000 last year. In 2013, the Chinese topped the list, with 56,000 mainlanders coming to Korea for various medical treatments. The United States came in second, followed by Russia, Japan and Mongolia. The KTO expects the number of Russian medical tourists will surge in the coming years on the back of a bilateral visa-waiver program, which took effect in January. In addition, airlines have launched new routes into more Russian cities. Currently, Asiana flies from Incheon to Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Sakhalin.
 

 

 

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