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China builds first heavy ion therapy center to cure cancer
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Construction has begun on China's first hospital focusing on heavy ion therapy for cancer sufferers in Lanzhou, capital of the northwestern Gansu Province.

The Lanzhou Heavy Ion Cancer Treatment Center would be able to treat 2,000 cancer patients each year, and would accept patients from around the world, said Yue Haikui, chief of office at Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institution of Modern Physics, Monday.

Heavy ion was one of the most advanced and effective cancer treatments in the world, and was more accurate, caused less damage to healthy tissue and had a higher cure rate than conventional radiotherapies, said Zhan Wenlong, deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Clinical trials on 109 volunteer patients by the academy showed two to three months of heavy ion treatment could, in most cases, completely eliminate detectable tumors.

More than 90 percent of the patients had no relapse in the following 18 months.

Zhan said the trials proved the therapy to be highly effective.

Construction of the hospital, covering 13 hectares, started Monday and is expected to be completed within three years. A research and development facility will take another 26 hectares.

The hospital will be owned and managed as a joint venture by Sheng De Group, the city government and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Sheng De Group, a private firm that won the project in a tender, is contracted to build the hospital, including construction of the building and purchase of equipments.

The total investment amounts to 1 billion yuan (US$146 million), and the city government would provide favorable tax and land lease policies, said Lanzhou Mayor Zhang Jinliang Sunday.

The cost of heavy ion treatment and the number of hospital staff were yet to be decided, said Sheng Shijia, spokesman for Sheng De Group.

"Chinese and overseas experts and scholars in related fields are the key targets of our recruitment plan," Sheng added.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in China, with 2 million new cases reported annually.

According to the provincial health bureau, about 42,000 people die of cancer every year in Gansu, accounting for 25 percent of the province's overall deaths. More than 1 billion yuan (US$146 million) is spent annually on treating cancer in the province.

(Xinhua News Agency July 21, 2009)

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