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US cancer center reaches out to China

By May Zhou in Houston | China Daily | Updated: 2016-01-21 08:04

A top medical institution at the University of Texas announced on Tuesday that it had partnered with a Chinese group to establish a referral office in Beijing.

It is the latest move by an overseas group to tap into the rising medical market of China, where the newly affluent have begun seeking the world's best medical services.

MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in the US said it would join in the venture with China's Concord Medical Services Holdings in creating the referral office, which will be dedicated to providing free services to Chinese patients seeking proton therapy. MD Anderson's application and treatment process will be used.

The office was envisioned to help Chinese patients overcome distance and language barriers and provide them with the best medical experience available.

Previously, renowned hospitals like the Mayo Clinic and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center created liaison offices in China to help people who can afford treatment overseas.

Industry analysts put the number of potential patients in the country at around 3,000 each year.

Concord Medical, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, began working with MD AndersonPTC in 2012, according to Adam Sun, the company's chief information officer. The company is the second-largest shareholder of MD AndersonPTC.

Proton therapy is radiation treatment using a beam of protons to deliver radiation directly to a cancer tumor, destroying abnormal cells while sparing healthy tissue. It is used to treat cancers in the head, neck, brain and prostate, as well as cancers in children.

In its 10th year of operation, MD AndersonPTC treats 800 patients a year on average. About 10 percent are international patients, including about 20 from China in 2015, said Matthew Palmer, director of proton therapy development at MD AndersonPTC.

"Our partnership has proved to benefit Chinese cancer patients tremendously," Sun said. "As one of the most advanced radiotherapy technologies, proton therapy has significant advantages in local control rates, secondary reactions and a decrease in long-term side effects.

"We hope to expand our circle of influence, help more patients by establishing the referral center and provide the best quality of life to cancer patients."

Currently, the average five-year survival rate for a Chinese cancer patient is about 30 percent, much lower than the US average of 70 percent.

MD Anderson Cancer Center has seen an increasing number of Chinese patients seeking treatment in recent years. Getting to Houston, however, has proved daunting to many.

"We hope we can help Chinese cancer patients benefit from advanced medical services and research achievements," Sun said.

Shan Juan in Beijing contributed to this story.

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