“Fighting against Viral Hepatitis: Lessons from Taiwan,” a paper written by Professor Ding- Shinn Chen, a Chair professor by special appointment at NTU’s Department of Internal Medicine, was published in August Issue of “Hepatology,” the leading journal in the study of liver diseases. Listed under the title of “Master’s Perspective”, Professor Chen’s paper discussed in length Taiwan’s outstanding performance in the prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis, chronic liver diseases, and liver cancer.
Professor Chen’s paper points out that, viral hepatitis and its consequences pose a serious health threat to mankind, including Taiwan. Over the past forty years Taiwan’s scientists and health care providers invested considerable efforts to control the infection of viral hepatitis and its sequelae, and achieved outstanding results. National Taiwan University’s medical research team consistently spearheaded the research and prevention of viral hepatitis for decades, and Professor Ding-Shinn Chen especially played a pivotal role in this area.
The article describes how as a student, Professor Chen became interested in research and how he became immersed in the study of type B and type C hepatitis and chronic liver diseases. It also describes in length how Professor Chen conducted early diagnosis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma with his colleagues and how he assisted the government in establishing a viral hepatitis prevention and control plan, which effectively reduced the carrier rate of B hepatitis and curtailed the incidence rate of hepatocellular carcinoma. Other details included how Professor Chen first used the injection of interferon combined with the use of oral form of ribavirin to treat chronic hepatitis C patients, and how he conducted research on D hepatitis viruses, etc., Professor Chen explained these details from his personal point of view. In matters of fact, he described the efforts that Taiwan spent on the prevention and cure of virus hepatitis during the past forty years, which can be a good reference for other countries which are similarly beleaguered by virus hepatitis. At the end of the article, Professor Chen talked about the problems that remain to be solved, and predicted the situations which people of Taiwan will face in terms of liver diseases after the middle of the century. His predictions can be said to be quite prognostic. All in all, Professor Chen’s career and achievements, fit into the educational goal of the School of Medicine of National Taiwan University, which stands as “To cultivate good doctors who can serve our society, lead the medical community, and make contributions to mankind.” In short, his achievements are to be commended. Because of his scholastic achievements, Professor Chen was elected academician of Academia Sinica in 1992, Fellow of the Third World Academy of Sciences in 2001, and foreign associate for the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. in 2005. In essence, Professor Ding-Shinn Chen can be said to be a virtuoso in the field of hepatology.
Background information: During the 70’s, Professor Chen and his colleagues at the NTU Hospital utilized sensitive immunological test methods and discovered that over 80% or 90% patients in Taiwan with chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer had chronic B hepatitis, and that even among healthy people over 15% to 20% had the infection of B hepatitis. In addition, they were able to prove the important role that mother-child vertical transmission played in the spread of type B hepatitis. Due to the special geographical distribution of the subtypes of B hepatitis, the continued existence of mother-child vertical transmission allowed chronic B hepatitis to pass on from generation to generation, and never become extinct. In 1980 Professor found in his patient’s tumor tissue specimens the existence of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which was embedded in the host’s genomes. At the molecular level, he confirmed the correlation between B hepatitis virus and liver cancer. This was quite an early discovery in the world. Also, Professor Chen and his medical team were able to prove that in Taiwan, B hepatitis virus through vertical transmission was the major cause of liver cancer. These research achievements established a solid foundation for understanding how viruses led to chronic liver diseases and liver cancers in Taiwan and pointed a direction for their later prevention and cure. Most importantly, Professor Ding-Shinn Chen devoted his strengths to assist the Government promote hepatitis prevention program. Therein lies his greatest contribution.