New Cancer Center Set to Open to Fill Gaps in Treatment

A major new medical center equipped for comprehensive cancer treatment—including Cambodia’s first bone marrow transplants—is set to open in September, potentially alleviating the need for some patients to travel abroad for treatment.

The $36 million National Cancer Center and Nuclear Medicine will open as part of Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh, said Eav Sokha, head of the onco-hematology department at the public hospital.

The project was financed by the government, with an additional $1.4 million donated by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency for medical training, Dr. Sokha said.

“The center will be equipped with treatment for all kinds of cancers, such as modern radiotherapy,” the country’s first bone marrow transplant equipment and cell division equipment, he said.

According to the atomic agency, Cambodia has about 15,000 cases of cancer a year, with about 90 percent of the patients requiring some form of radiotherapy.

However, the country’s sole radiotherapy treatment machine—at the capital’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital—has the capacity to treat only 500 people a year, the agency says on its website.

The Calmette department currently treats about 8,300 patients a year, and the need for cancer treatment is only growing, Dr. Sokha said.

Construction of the new center is nearly complete, and medical training has also wrapped up, with 12 staff within Dr. Sokha’s department designated to run the center, he said.

It is expected to be able to treat up to 3,000 patients a year, with 50 beds available for hospital stays, he said. Treatment fees had not yet been decided, he added.

Turobova Tatiana, a medical oncologist at Sen Sok International University Hospital’s oncology department—one of three such departments in the country—welcomed the new center.

“Different kinds of cancer have different types of diagnoses and treatment programs, and very frequently for one particular kind cancer, there is a need for combination of treatments, like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy,” Dr. Tatiana said. “For some kinds of cancer treatment, like radiation therapy, we have to send patients to Khmer-Soviet hospital or abroad.”

Cambodians typically must travel to Vietnam, Thailand or Singapore, which adds to the financial cost of the medical care, especially as treatment can take months or years, she said.

The new center will help cancer patients and their families save money, which is “very important, because cancer treatment is expensive,” Dr. Tatiana said. “They will also not lose time to start modern treatment” while arranging care overseas, improving the efficacy of the treatment.

Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann could not be reached for comment.

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