TrueBeam image courtesy of Varian Medical Systems
September 9, 2015 — Varian Medical Systems is collaborating with two leading Cape Town universities to launch Africa's first 'Access to Care' program, designed to train cancer caregivers in delivering advanced conformal radiotherapy treatments.
The three-month course, which will be delivered in conjunction with Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Cape Town's department of radiation oncology, aims to train and support radiation therapy departments to implement and maintain 3-D conformal radiation therapy treatment programs at their hospitals. In many cases, the delegates' only experience of radiotherapy will have been older cobalt-based 2-D treatments.
"As radiation oncology becomes increasingly precise and cancer centers worldwide can offer ever more advanced treatments for their patients, many parts of the developing world are still significantly under-equipped with too few machines to treat their rapidly growing cancer populations," said Michael Sandhu, who heads Varian Oncology Systems' new global market development team. "Developing regions are starting to invest in new equipment to address this capacity gap but they are often hindered by a lack of qualified staff to plan treatments and run the equipment."
The Access to Care program will offer two courses a year in South Africa. Each program will be attended by four teams of radiation oncologists, medical physicists and radiotherapy therapists from participating hospitals from across the African continent. The course includes three weeks of classroom-based training at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, which is equipped with a virtual linear accelerator and four workstations, followed by a 10-week remote mentorship program. A separate software lab equipped with 10 workstations is available for students to practice contouring and treatment planning. The classroom is linked to Varian's virtual education environment hosted in its European headquarters in Cham, Switzerland.
"The training of cancer specialists and their teams enters a new era with the Access to Care program, which is at the leading edge of training globally and will help towards better and safer care of patients with cancer," said Prof. Raymond Abratt, retired head of radiation oncology at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town, and current chairperson of the South African Society of Clinical and Radiation Oncologists (SASCRO). "Radiation oncology is an important component of cancer treatment in Africa and I congratulate all those involved in realizing this exceptional facility and the associated training programs."
Access to Care also offers training programs in Vietnam and has plans to commence a similar project in Algeria.
According to a 2013 study published in Lancet Oncology, only 23 out of 52 African countries have radiotherapy available for patients. The World Health Organization reports that by 2030 there will be some 1.6 million new cancer cases in Africa each year, resulting in 1.2 million deaths. The most common cancers in Africa are cancers of the cervix, breast, lung, liver and prostate.
Varian has installed more than 100 radiotherapy treatment systems in Africa over the last 25 years.
For more information: www.varian.com