SEOUL, KOREA - Professor Chai Jong-seo’s superconductive proton therapy system, which minimizes both facilities and installation costs and dramatically lowers pain and medical bills, does miracles for cancer patients.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in S. Korea at the moment. Since cancer is the No.1 killer in many nations, people have pulled out all the stops to fight cancer. The treatment of cancer involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc. The top killer is pretty much scary. Cancerous cells often metastasize to other organs; chemotherapy accompanies unbearable pains.
However, there is good news for cancer patients. Chai Jong-seo, Professor of electronic and electric engineering at Sung Kyun Kwan University, has successfully developed an all-in-one superconductive proton therapy system, which is about to be commercialized.
Professor Chai’s proton therapy system, which destroys cancerous tissues by using hydrogen nuclei (protons), is based on physical characteristics that are not found in the Bragg peak and radiation therapy. Almost no radiation exists before and after the Bragg peak, so normal tissues are less likely to suffer from any side effects. Besides, effective, colossal attacks on malignant tumors are possible that radiation therapy is unable to mount.
Proton beam therapy can be put to good use in treating most cancers, including lung cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, rectal cancer, head and neck cancer, prostate cancer, etc. To top it off, proton beam therapy has been clinically proven to be very effective in treating ocular cancer, brain cancer and chordoma, which have been rarely cured by radiation therapy. Besides, it also can be applied to children suffering from solid cancer who are too fragile to undergo by radiation therapy. What’s more, proton beam therapy can treat various regions simultaneously since it has few side effects. This versatile proton therapy minimizes side effects of existing radiation therapy while expanding treatment coverage.
International demand for proton therapy centers is huge. Though the number of cancer patients eligible for proton therapy nears 2,600,000, the existing 32 centers can accommodate only 30,000 patients. Thus, more than 8,000 new treatment rooms need to be built.
Having felt the need for proton therapy, S. Korea started to use proton therapy as a formal cancer treatment method, not an experimental one. Although proton therapy systems go for hundreds of billions of won, an increasing number of domestic medical institutions are planning to purchase them. National Cancer Center’s Proton Therapy Center was created in 2007; Samsung Medical Center’s Proton Therapy Center was established in 2014, a year after the inception of Samsung Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Since proton therapy is a very simple procedure, it effectively reduces pain for cancer patients. “A single session of proton therapy takes 20-30 minutes, in which the cancer patient is exposed to proton beams for about 2-3 minutes. So this proton therapy is indeed revolutionary,” said Professor Chai.
As of now, the proton therapy centers of National Cancer Center and Samsung Medical Center are using proton therapy equipment, manufactured by IBAIBA and Sumitomo, which weight approximately 220 tons, take up a lot of space and require high installation costs. However, Professor Chai’s all-in-one proton therapy equipment packing a small accelerator system comes whiteout such shortcomings.
“I have built a proton therapy system that takes up much less space and minimizes installation costs,” mentioned Professor Chai. The successful miniaturization of an accelerator system has enabled his proton therapy equipment to come in an all-in-one body design, therefore successfully minimizing the cost of building additional areas for radiation shielding. In addition, the gantry itself is combined with cyclotrons, so all the tools needed for proton therapy can be placed within the treatment room.
The export of proton therapy centers is also possible. Since there is high demand for proton therapy, Professor Chai is planning on selling proton therapeutics, medical team education, software and diagnostic equipment in bundles to South America, the Middle East and other Asian nations.
Things are looking up for superconductive proton therapy systems. The possibility of combining proton therapy equipment with diagnostic equipment (e.g. MRI scanners) is also being contemplated. The development of various accelerators for medical purposes (includingcyclotrons) makes headway.
Since the efficacy of proton therapy has already been proven, his all-in-one proton therapy system is expected to replace over 40% of domestic hospitals’ 180 X-ray machines once it has secured price competitiveness.
By Kim Yu-na(email@example.com)