A vaccine widely known for treating late-stage cancer -- almost all types of cancer, except leukemia -- is now available in the country.
The Human Initiated Therapeutic Vaccine (HITV), which was only available in Japan previously, is able to completely destroy microscopic and tiny nests of cancer cells, thus preventing any future recurrences.
Discovered in 2005 by Dr Kenichiro Hasumi, a Japanese physician and researcher, HITV is an autologus (patient derived) active cell-based immunotherapy for metastatic or late-stage cancer patients.
It is based on immunology that harnesses human immune system's innate and adaptive ability to combat diseases.
Dr Hasumi, founder and chairman of Hasumi International Research Foundation in the United States, has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to find a cure to cancer.
Speaking at a media conference Monday, Dr Hasumi said the therapy was highly effective for patients suffering from late-stage cancer, when used in combination with radiotherapy.
"The use of tomotherapy (a type of radiation therapy) is important in this protocol. It can target the tumors precisely in one sweep, while reducing the radiation exposure to the surrounding tissues," he said.
The treatment includes harvesting immune cells from the patient, culturing them in the laboratory to become immature dentritic cells, and then re-introducing them into the patient's body, through injection into the tumor.
HITV course takes about three weeks, with 10 days of actual treatment. Patients will have to be examined with PET-CT scan after the treatment periodically, to monitor the tumors for regression.
While the treatment was only available in Japan, nine Malaysians suffering late stage of various types of cancer have decided to give it a try. Five of them have shown complete response.
They include Goh Sai Wah, 58, a non-smoker who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer with extensive spread to the spine and bone in May, last year.
She underwent the HITV therapy in Japan on Oct 30, last year and in her follow-up check, six weeks later, almost all cancer cells had disappeared.
Now, 365 days later, and counting, she is very much alive and well.
Dr Hasumi said, since late stage cancer was a very difficult stage to cure, he hoped that in future, there would be innovations to cure cancer in the early stages.
HITV therapy costs about RM200,000, if patients decide to have it in Japan. In Malaysia, it will cost about RM150,000.
The therapy is now available at the Mahameru International Medical Centre but medical practitioners are trying their very best to introduce HITV to all hospitals in the Klang Valley, in an effort to give late-stage cancer patients a new hope in life.