BERTAM, PENANG, 2 June 2020 – Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) continues to be at the forefront in science and technology innovation as it has successfully developed a new, pioneering technique to treat tongue cancer, named HyBIRT that can cure tongue cancer without the need for surgery or the removal of infected parts.
The brainchild of a multidisciplinary team of cancer experts from the USM Advanced Medical and Dental Institute (IPPT), HyBIRT or 'Hybrid Barchytherapy-Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy' is a modified technique comprising of two existing methods of cancer treatment, namely External Radiotherapy (IMRT) and Brachytherapy.
The team, made up of Dr. Gokula Kumar A/L Appalanaido, Dr. Muhamad Yusri Musa and Dr. Mohd Zahri Abdul Aziz, has successfully treated the first two tongue cancer patients who had undergone HyBIRT treatment for 6 months with the function of their tongue almost completely restored (as shown in the Magnectic Resonance Imaging, MRI test results).
IPPT Director, Professor Dr. Syed Azhar Syed Sulaiman said ”The method was introduced as an alternative to patients who did not want to be operated or could not be operated on due to numerous medical reasons and could potentially provide a better option for patients compared to the existing radiotherapy method.
“To our knowledge and from what has been gathered from literature reviews, we could not find any medical centre in the world that has adopted a similar technique in treating tongue cancer,” he said.
According to Syed Azhar, compared to the techniques used in the treatment of tongue cancer today, HyBIRT has been found to be more effective in its ability to completely heal the tongue, and return the function of the tongue to almost its original state.
“This is because existing treatments require part or the whole tongue to be removed to prevent the spread of cancer and this causes the patient to be fearful and to withdraw from the treatment, which will cause more harm or even death to the patient.
"Hence HyBIRT provides an alternative for patients to be treated with improved morbidity," he said.
Syed Azhar added that research on the technique took two years to complete, and it was first performed at IPPT in 2017.
“So far, IPPT has received a total of 10 tongue cancer patients who are currently undergoing Brachytherapy treatment and this is an opportune time for USM to expand the HyBIRT treatment technique in the country in order for tongue cancer patients to have a better chance of recovery in the future,” he explained.
However, Syed Azhar said that not all cases of tongue cancer can be treated with HyBIRT technique and it is best for patients to consult a specialist first to see if this treatment is appropriate.
Translation: Tan Ewe Hoe/Photo: IPPT