HONG KONG, Dec. 2, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- HKSH Medical Group (HKSH) announced today the grand opening of the HKSH Proton Therapy Centre (the Centre) – the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Located at the HKSH Eastern Medical Centre in A Kung Ngam, Shau Kei Wan, the Centre boasts two state-of-the-art treatment rooms and a cutting-edge proton therapy system. This system comprises two half-rotating proton therapy gantries, a synchrotron-based accelerator and an advanced beam transport system. The system is ingeniously positioned in a vertically stacked format, making it an excellent example of compact design configurations suitable for densely populated urban areas like Hong Kong.
Officiating at the opening ceremony of the Centre, Professor LO Chung-mau, Secretary for Health, HKSAR Government, said, "It is most encouraging to witness the introduction of proton therapy to Hong Kong which can provide our patients with a more effective and less invasive treatment option. The HKSAR Government is highly committed to fostering healthcare innovations in the city through various initiatives in recent years, such as commencing a large-scale genome sequencing project to promote genomic medicine and introducing a regulatory regime for advanced therapy products. As recently announced in the Chief Executive's Policy Address, the SAR Government will continue to work with stakeholders and society to develop Hong Kong into a health and medical innovation hub."
Dr. Walton LI, Chief Executive Officer of HKSH Medical Group and Medical Superintendent of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, said, "Introducing proton therapy to Hong Kong has been a decade-long, challenging journey, and we are grateful for the support of Hitachi, who helped us with the introduction of the proton therapy system. We are also grateful for the expertise of international specialists from Mayo Clinic Arizona, who oversaw the initial clinical application and design of a training program for our clinical oncologists and scientists. In addition to proton therapy, we also provide multidisciplinary cancer management services, including cancer genetics, diagnostics, rehabilitation, and counselling. In the next few years, we look forward to implementing inpatient services, additional operating theatre facilities, and cancer care units at the HKSH Eastern Medical Centre in Shau Kei Wan. Our goal is to provide cancer patients with access to advanced technology and treatment modalities. We will continue to strive for the best possible patient experience, ensuring that every patient under our care receives the highest level of support throughout their cancer-fighting journey."
Mr. Wyman LI, Chief Operating Officer of HKSH Medical Group and Director of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, remarked, "The establishment of the HKSH Proton Therapy Centre is the result of 18 years of accumulative hard work. It represents one of HKSH's most challenging projects to date due to its site location on solid granite rocks and the need to convert an industrial building into hospital use. Proton therapy is a cutting-edge treatment technique, so we have been strengthening and expanding our team of oncology professionals by providing them with the necessary expert training to ensure a high standard of treatment quality. HKSH now has the most comprehensive range of radiotherapy facilities in the world to provide diverse cancer treatment options catering for the unique condition of each patient. The launch of HKSH Proton Therapy Centre also aligns with the mission of The Li Shu Fan Medical Foundation, which is now in its 60th year, to bring the best medical treatment to Hong Kong."
Since commencing initial operations in July this year, the Centre has provided proton therapy to about 40 cancer patients aged between seven and 88. These cases encompass a wide range of cancer types, including 26 breast cancer cases and six paediatric cancer cases, while the rest are prostate, head & neck, thorax and craniospinal cancers. All six paediatric cancer cases were referred by the Hong Kong Children's Hospital. These paediatric cases involve neuroblastoma, synovial sarcoma, maxillary sinus sarcoma, maxillary sinus carcinoma and craniopharyngioma.
Proton therapy is considered the most advanced form of radiotherapy modality currently available for cancer treatment. Distinguished from conventional photon-based radiotherapy, which allows radiation to infiltrate through the target site and potentially destroy normal tissue beyond the tumour, proton therapy exhibits amazing precision. It delivers a concentrated burst of energy to the target volume while ensuring that radiation abruptly ceases and dissipates afterwards. This distinctive physical phenomenon is known as the "Bragg Peak".
Proton therapy involves meticulous computation and regulation of the depth and intensity of the proton beam, precisely targeting cancer cells. Since the proton beam only focuses on the cancer cells, damage caused to healthy tissues and organs surrounding the tumour is minimal, thus reducing the risk of complications and side effects commonly associated with conventional radiotherapy. Therefore, proton therapy is particularly effective in treating tumours located near critical organs, such as those in the head and neck, brain, lung, liver, breast, pancreas, prostate, as well as sarcoma.
The unique advantages of employing proton treatment in a head and neck cancer case were elucidated by Dr LAW Chun-key, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Specialist in Clinical Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital. "While both proton therapy and conventional radiotherapy deliver comparable radiation doses to the tumour region for the purpose of killing cancer cells, proton therapy significantly minimises radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues and organs. In the cases of head and neck cancer as well as brain tumours, it is crucial for minimising radiation exposure to the salivary glands, eyes, ears, oral cavity and the brain as a whole. Proton therapy can potentially reduce adverse effects like dry mouth, impaired hearing and vision, oral pain, temporal lobe necrosis and the development of secondary malignancies in the surrounding areas. These potential complications can have a long-lasting impact on the patient's quality of life."
Proton therapy is the best option for treating breast cancer, according to Dr CHANG Tien-yee, Amy, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Specialist in Clinical Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital. "This is especially true if vital organs like heart and lungs are in close proximity to the tumour. Proton therapy reduces the risk of late cardiovascular events while effectively protecting these organs," said Dr Chang.
She also illustrates the benefits of proton therapy in treating prostate cancer. One of the primary advantages is a significant reduction in radiation dose to adjacent organs such as the bladder, rectum, and intestines. "Many clinical studies have shown the high effectiveness of proton therapy with minimal side effects. Furthermore, because the length of the treatment and the number of fractions needed for the treatment are shortened, patients can complete their therapy sooner," added Dr Chang.
Professor CHAN Chi-fung, Godfrey, Honorary Consultant in Paediatrics and Specialist in Paediatric Haematology & Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, asserts that "proton therapy is less harmful to children in the short and long term without compromising its effectiveness. This treatment option lessens many radiation-induced adverse effects for growing children, such as cognitive function impairment, growth and endocrine issues, as well as the likelihood of secondary malignancy later in life."
Dr KAM Koon-ming, Michael, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Specialist in Clinical Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, recently treated several paediatric cases using proton therapy and highlighted the advantages of this treatment for children. He stated, "Children generally experience a longer survival period after treatment and are more vulnerable to the side effects of radiation during their developmental stage. Taking brain tumours as an example, proton therapy can reduce the radiation dose to vital structures in the developing brain. Studies indicate that the ten-year overall survival rate for children with medulloblastoma is comparable between those who undergo proton therapy and those who undergo conventional photon therapy. However, proton therapy has been shown to have a lower incidence of neurocognitive and thyroid function impairments, as well as a reduced risk of developing secondary malignancies within a ten-year period."
The ageing population of Hong Kong has led to an uptick in cancer cases, with approximately one in four people developing cancer before the age of 75. To provide comprehensive support for patients facing aggressive types of cancer, HKSH aims to empower them with a wider range of treatment options tailored to their unique conditions. With the addition of the proton therapy system, HKSH now has one of the most extensive ranges of radiotherapy facilities worldwide. Mr Wyman LI, Chief Operating Officer of HKSH Medical Group and Director of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, said, "The inauguration of the HKSH Proton Therapy Centre signifies a new chapter in cancer management in Hong Kong. It further underscores our commitment to establishing a centre of excellence in oncology. In addition to the essential hardware and infrastructure, we have also assembled a growing team of highly specialised and multidisciplinary oncology experts, including clinical oncologists, radiation therapists, medical physicists, medical dosimetrists and specialised nurses."
As the visionary leader spearheading the conceptualisation and realisation of the proton therapy centre, Mr Li disclosed that the idea of establishing the Centre originated in 2008. It represents one of the most intricate proton therapy construction projects worldwide, primarily due to its challenging site location on solid granite rocks and the limited floor space available for construction. "Extensive efforts were made to excavate the rocks from the ground and build the gantry-based treatment rooms deep underground. The COVID-19 pandemic also presented significant obstacles in recent years, as it impeded Hitachi engineers from traveling to Hong Kong to install the massive system. However, thanks to the unwavering dedication and commitment of the Hitachi team, the proton therapy system was successfully delivered to HKSH in July this year. It is incredibly exciting to see this decade-long project come to fruition. We have conducted nearly a hundred studies on MR-guided radiation therapy and proton therapy, and our commitment to intensive clinical research in these applications remains unwavering. Our goal is to continually optimise the benefits of these treatment modalities and enhance their effectiveness in patient care," stated Mr Li.
HKSH is also a leading pioneer among international medical institutions in offering state-of-the-art Magnetic Resonance (MR) guidance technology in proton radiotherapy. Dr Ben YU, Head of Medical Physics Department at HKSH Medical Group, explained, "imaging is particularly crucial for tumours located in organs that undergo motion, such as the lung or liver. It ensures accurate targeting of the proton beam by tracking the tumour's movement, allowing clinicians to adjust the depth and intensity of the proton beam accordingly. This approach enables the tumour to receive an optimal dose while minimising the risk of damaging surrounding healthy tissues."
HKSH will continue to collaborate with the public sector and the medical schools of Hong Kong's universities to conduct clinical treatment, provide medical training, and engage in scientific research using this advanced proton beam system. With the accumulation of clinical application experience, HKSH aims to push the boundaries of proton therapy and improve outcomes for cancer patients. It is anticipated that 400 to 600 patients across a broad range of cancer types will benefit from proton therapy annually when the Centre is fully operated.
 Overview of Hong Kong Cancer Statistics of 2021, Hospital Authority.
About HKSH Medical Group
Officially launched in September 2017, HKSH Medical Group promotes public health and advanced medicine through a multi-faceted, coordinated approach across clinical services, medical education, scientific research and public health education. Members of the Group, including Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, HKSH Healthcare and HKSH Eastern Medical Centre, are dedicated to offering top-quality holistic care to patients, upholding the motto 'Quality in Service, Excellence in Care.'
Established in 1922, Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital is one of the key members of HKSH Medical Group and a leading private hospital in Hong Kong. Living up to its motto of 'Quality in Service, Excellence in Care', the Hospital is committed to serving the public as well as promoting medical education and research.
Officiating guests at the opening ceremony included Professor LO Chung-mau, Secretary for Health, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (second left); Dr. Walton LI, Chief Executive Officer of HKSH Medical Group and Medical Superintendent of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital (second right); Mr. Wyman LI, Chief Operating Officer of HKSH Medical Group and Director of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital (first left), and Dr. Yen-chow TSAO, Chief Clinical Officer of HKSH Medical Group and Deputy Medical Superintendent of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital (first right).
(From left to right) Dr LAW Chun-key, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Specialist in Clinical Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital; Professor CHAN Chi-fung, Godfrey, Honorary Consultant in Paediatrics and Specialist in Paediatric Haematology & Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital; Mr Wyman LI, Chief Operating Officer of HKSH Medical Group and Director of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital; Dr KAM Koon-ming, Michael, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Specialist in Clinical Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital; Dr Ben YU, Head of Medical Physics Department at HKSH Medical Group; and Dr CHANG Tien-yee, Amy, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Specialist in Clinical Oncology of Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, shared the development of proton therapy and its clinical application.