Filed under: Cancer
China Cancer Treatment takes Western doctors by surprise
Western world doctors have shown surprise by the Haidian Hospital in Beijing offering a treatment to treat cancers of the digestive tract (esophageal, gastric, colon, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, rectum), lung cancer, sarcoma, thyroid gland cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and ovarian cancer. The main cornerstone of the treatment is a gene-therapy product called Gendicine.
They complain that this treatment has not been approved in the West, and therefore patients shouldn’t go to China to have this treatment. Of course they don’t – after all that is money out of their pocket.
The reality is that the Chinese have a more pragmatic view to any sort of medical treatments. If these treatments work or appear to work, then they will use them.
Because of Gendicine and other innovative treatments, China has quickly become a destination for rich international patients seeking innovative and unconventional treatments for cancer and other diseases that are not yet available in the famous medical facilities of the West. "Even in these (Western) countries, oncologists and cancer centers can't (or won’t) do anything more for them," said Li Dinggang, MD, the surgical oncologist who heads the Haidian center, referring to patients traveling to Beijing for treatment. "That's the point at which patients contact me."
The Haidian hospital uses conventional radiation and chemotherapy as well as innovative treatments such as hyperthermia and high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). But the primary source of excitement is clearly the new gene therapy treatment, Gendicine.
In 2003, history was made when China's State Food & Drug Administration (or SFDA) approved Gendicine for use in human cancer patients. Gendicine thus became the world's first commercially available gene-therapy drug, years ahead of any competitor in the world. Yet, you still cannot get this drug in the West, could this have something to do with the fact that the Western Pharmaceutical companies did not patent it?
The cost for patients coming from abroad for the two-month gene therapy treatment in Haidian is USD $20,000 and since this is an experimental treatment, it is generally not covered by US health insurance. My understanding is that gene-therapy is not covered by most insurance policies anyway, so it will have to come out of your own pocket. This cost is no more than some of the standard 'targeted' drug therapies now being offered in Western hospitals. There are more than 130 hospitals in China providing Gendicine treatment. However, most non-Chinese patients will go to Haidian or one of the few other clinics that are really set up to handle English-speaking clients.
The treatment offered at Haidian Hospital can be regarded as a conventional treatment. The treatment is government approved and the personnel involved are for the most part conventionally trained. These people are certainly not your typical practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Their clinical trials have been conducted without the participation of better-known facilities in Europe, Japan or the US. This does not mean that they are ineffective; it just means that the Western medical community has dropped the ball.
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