Establish Taiwan as “Liver Health Center of Excellence” in Asia

Sophisticated diagnostic equipment such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and CT Scans are making it possible to detect tumors at an early stage when they are still very small. Photo: CNA

The American Chamber of Commerce will host a liver health management forum on September 27 to discuss the opportunity for establishing Taiwan as a “Liver Health Center of Excellence” for the Asian region. Vice President of Taiwan Chen Chien-Jen has been invited to participate as a keynote speaker.

In its position paper in the Chamber’s 2018 Taiwan White Paper, AmCham’s Public Health Committee recommends building Taiwan into a knowledge hub for liver health. Liver disease is one of Taiwan’s top public health priorities.

The Taiwan government last September announced an ambitious plan to cut the number of hepatitis C carriers in half by 2025 and completely eradicate the disease from the island by 2030. To pursue this goal, the budget for combating hepatitis C was more than doubled from NT$2 billion in 2016 to NT$4.2 billion in 2017.

Hepatitis, which is more prevalent in Asian countries than in the West, can lead to liver cancer if not treated properly. “Liver disease is really a regional disease,” says Joyce Lee, co-chair of the Public Health Committee says. In Taiwan, liver cancer is the second most prevalent type of cancer; in the United States, it does not make the top 10.

As a “Liver Health Center of Excellence,” Taiwan will be able to gain recognition from researchers interested in liver health as the best place to acquire more knowledge and experience about liver diseases. Taiwan will also be better positioned to attract early-phase clinical trials for prospective new treatments.

“We would like to ensure that Taiwan will be at the top of the mind when international companies prepare to do liver disease research,” says Lee.

The Public Health Committee also urges more attention to the development of innovative ways to combat liver diseases such as liver cancer. Some new techniques under development include immuno-oncological therapies, which are intended to train the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancerous cells, as well as target therapy, which locates and disrupts proteins in cancerous cells. These techniques represent viable treatment options when traditional procedures such as tumor excision are not possible.

The Committee has praised the Taiwan government for its commitment to the issue of liver health, and the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) in particular for streamlining the approval process for new drugs and treatments, as well as its efforts to increase hepatitis B vaccinations across the country.

For further recommendations about liver health in Taiwan, see the Public Health Committee’s full White Paper entry here.