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Health Department approves new lung cancer drug

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Department of Health recently approved a new targeted drug to treat patients suffering from late stage ALK-positive or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

According to the latest figures released by the Health Department, lung cancer remains the top killer in Taiwan, causing some 8,000 deaths every year. Research showed that the ALK (Anaplastic lymphoma kinase) gene is an important factor in cancer development, especially in the development of NSCLC. The ALK gene fuses with the protein EML4 (Echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4) into a gene that turns normal cells cancerous and facilitates their spreading.

Tsai Chun-ming (蔡俊明), the chief of the Thoracic Oncology Division at the Taipei Veterans' General Hospital, pointed out that due to the lack of obvious symptoms, about two-thirds of NSCLC patients discovered their cancer only when it reached a late stage. The rise of targeted drugs marks a new age for lung cancer treatment, he said. The new drug approved by the Health Department can suppress the ALK gene, thereby preventing the development of cancerous cells.

Shih Jin-yuan (施金元), a professor at the Department of Internal Medicine of National Taiwan University Hospital, called for late-stage NSCLC patients to adopt the “ALK 3-step approach” to fight their cancer. The “ALK” in this case stands for the three steps of “action” (to take EGFR and ALK gene screenings), “learn” (to understand more about personalized treatment choices including targeted drug) and “keep” (to maintain one's cancer fight).

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