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The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council: Upholding Medical Innovations as a Cancer Care Centre of Excellence

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Malaysian health practitioners are at the helm of various new techniques to treat tongue, blood and orthopaedic-related cancers in their race to boost cancer care accessibility.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA 6 April 2023 – Cancer has become a leading cause of premature death, with nearly 10 million lives being lost to the disease in 2020[1]. As the world celebrates the 2023 World Health Day with the theme Health for All, it is worth noting that healthcare practitioners are keeping pace with technological advances, which are increasingly opening up access to state-of-the-art treatments in oncology.

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In 2020, researchers at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Malaysia devised a groundbreaking treatment for tongue cancer. Spearheaded by Dr. Gokula Kumar Appalanaido, a Visiting Consultant Radiation Oncologist at the Penang Adventist Hospital, the technique proved successful, with two patients recovering within six months of clinical trials[2]. Known as Hybrid Brachytherapy Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (HyBIRT), brachytherapy needles are applied directly into the tumour, followed by further radiotherapy and chemotherapy. “Oncology has advanced by leaps and bounds. It’s amazing how tumours can now be removed without surgery,” said Dr. Gokula.

Underpinned by a professional training system, Malaysia benefits from a wealth of medical expertise, which is also behind a variety of oncology innovations. “For our part, allogeneic bone marrow transplants are now possible, even from donors who are only partially compatible genetically,” said Dr. Ng Soo Chin, a consultant haematologist at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre.

Introduced to treat various blood cancers, including leukaemia, the method is found to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by up to 22%, as grafts from allogeneic transplants are free from contaminant cells[3],[4]. “This allows for a potentially enlarged pool of donors, like distant relatives, and what’s more, it’s almost as effective as a fully-matched transplant,” continued Dr. Ng.

While surgeries sometimes cannot be avoided, numerous techniques have been developed through the years to facilitate better outcomes. One of these is limb-salvage surgery. It involves the targeted removal of a tumour without affecting the rest of the limb, thus negating the need for amputations in cases of orthopaedic-related cancer. According to researchers at USM, the survival rate for osteosarcoma patients who underwent limb-salvage surgery stood at 85% at two years, which is significantly greater than for amputees[5].

“We can now remove big portions of a bone or tissue, after which the defect is reconstructed, sometimes using donor cells,” added Dr Prashant Narhari, a Visiting Consultant Orthopaedic, Traumatologist and Oncologist at the Penang Adventist Hospital.

As medical technology progresses, oncology treatments are evolving in tandem, with healthcare practitioners racing to enhance cancer care access for all. The growing availability of various cancer treatments in Malaysia is a step forward that aligns with this year’s World Health Day’s call for Health for All, becoming a testament to the shared commitment to improving patient outcomes within the country.

Find out more about Malaysia’s oncology offerings at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP9MZ35Xfv0.

For more information on Malaysia Healthcare and its services, please visit https://malaysiahealthcare.org.my or visit our social feeds at: www.facebook.com/MHTCMalaysia or at LinkedIn (Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council).

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