In view of severe impacts of cancer on human health and the society, many developed countries consider cancer registry as the cornerstone of cancer prevention and control. In the evening on November 12, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) held a virtual forum on Innovation of the National Cancer Registry at Taipei with more than 100 health officials and experts from 17 countries, such as the United States, Japan, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands. The forum underlined that a comprehensive cancer registry not only helps health authorities develop policies for cancer prevention and control but also facilitates academic research on cancer risk factor and the outcome of cancer prevention and treatment.
Director of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Global Affairs Garrett Grigsby praised Taiwan’s leadership to combat cancer and active contribution to the global health system. He also emphasized that Taiwan should not be excluded from the World Health Organization (WHO) especially during COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Shih-Chung Chen (陳時中), Minister of Health and Welfare, addressed that many countries believe that they can establish cancer registry systems only after universal health insurance is available. Yet Taiwan’s cancer registry began as a hospital-based system in 1970, then a nationwide population-based system was launched in 1979. These initiatives show that Asia’s first cancer registry preceded Taiwan’s National Health Insurance program, which has provided universal coverage since 1995. Moreover, the completeness of case ascertainment (98%) and data quality of Taiwan’s cancer registry database meets at a gold standard by North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) gold standard registry certification.
Minister Chen also stated that in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, MOHW will launch a platform for healthcare big data and sustainability in 2021 in order to develop a precision health blueprint for the public health in Taiwan. Cancer registry is certainly one of the most important components in this platform. As the Taiwan government is currently implementing the National Cancer Registry Plan 2.0, this platform aims to promote cancer prevention and control by enhancing the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in cancer registry.
The forum was moderated by Dr. Kung-Yee Liang (梁賡義), President of the National Health Research Institutes. Dr. Chien-Jen Chen (陳建仁), Taiwan’s former Vice President, first delivered his speech Nationwide Cancer Registration System in Taiwan: 40-year Achievements and New Challenges, explaining how to adopt big data, machine learning and AI in natural language processing for addressing challenges and innovations in cancer registry. Followed by Dr. Donald Maxwell Parkin, visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford and Head of Cancer Registry Programme of the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), he underlined the development of cancer registries worldwide and the role of the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development (GICR), as well as the importance of building population-based cancer registry data for reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases. And lastly by Dr. Serban Negoita, famous American cancer registry scholar, shared American Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, linking data from multiple sources representing each patient’s trajectory over their disease course to evaluate the treatment outcomes. Moreover, Dr. Gijs Geleijnse, Data Science Team Lead and Innovation Program Manager at the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organization (IKNL), shared that the Netherlands has collaborated with Taiwan on federated learning in recent years, using AI in an innovative approach to compare and analyze cancer registry data of the two countries without sending those data abroad. Also present at the forum were Ambassador-at-Large Yung-Tung Wu (吳運東); Secretary General Yung-Min Chang (張雍敏), Counselor Li-Ling Liu (劉麗玲) of Ministry of Health and Welfare; Director-General Ying-Wei Wang (王英偉) of Health Promotion Administration; Secretary General Li-Wen Hsu (徐儷文) and Director-General Loong-Jin Chen (陳龍錦) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In the closing remarks by Director of American Institute in Taiwan Brent Christensen, he stressed that Taiwan and the U.S. have wide ranging partnership on health for over 20 years. Moreover, this partnership was further solidified with the signing of an MOU on health cooperation during the August visit to Taiwan by the U.S. HHS Secretary Alex Azar II. The U.S. looks forward to seeing Taiwan play a bigger role in the cancer research effort in the years to come. Minister Shih-Chung Chen concluded that Taiwan, as a global citizen, is willing to share its experience in integrating AI into national cancer registry, showing not only that “Taiwan can help” but that “Taiwan is helping” with concrete actions as well as making contributions to Taiwan’s bid to participate in the WHO.