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Taiwan to offer genetic testing for treatment of 6 cancers

(Pixabay photo)

(Pixabay photo)

Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has announced that it plans to launch a pilot program to offer genetic tests for the targeted treatment of six types of cancer, with the aim of helping the pharmaceutical industry develop medicine catered to individuals' genes and lifestyle, and boosting patients' chances of survival.

More than 1,000 patients will be enrolled in the program by the second half of this year, according to the MOHW.

The program, jointly developed by the MOHW, the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) and Roche Diagnostics Taiwan, will allow patients at a network of designated hospitals to have samples of their cancer analyzed for a range of possible mutations.

Based on the details on this analysis, Roche or other pharmaceutical companies involved in the program will be able to recommend targeted therapies for patients to consider, with input from their doctors, the ministry said.

According to the MOHW, the program will begin by accepting patients with advanced cases of stomach, esophageal, gall bladder and pancreatic cancer, cancer of the extrahepatic bile ducts (which are located outside the liver), and a type of lung cancer known as non-squamous non-small cell lung carcinoma.

While the cost of genetic testing on these types of cancer often exceeds NT$100,000 (US$3,577), it will be offered free to patients enrolled in the initiative, the ministry said.

In addition to helping the patients, the program is expected to contribute to the development of precision medicine in Taiwan, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at the program's launch event on Thursday.

Precision medicine refers to the tailoring of disease prevention or treatment techniques based on a person's genes, environment or lifestyle, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach based on the "average person."

Specifically, the program will benefit cancer research being conducted through biobanks, and generate "real-world evidence," or observational data, for use in the drug development and approval process, Chen said.

Meanwhile, NHRI President Liang Kung-yee (梁賡義) noted that the program's establishment marked the first time the National Biobank Consortium of Taiwan (NBCT) had partnered with an international pharmaceutical firm.

The trial program is expected to enroll and begin treating more than 1,000 patients as early as the middle of the year, Liang said.

Updated : 2021-09-23 08:59 GMT+08:00