The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has joined forces with 11 of the largest professional societies in cancer care to help improve access to radiotherapy services and reduce the global inequities in treatment of the disease. This week they signed the Practical Arrangements on Technical Professional Society Partnerships in Cancer Care, the IAEA’s first multilateral partnership on radiation oncology, medical physics and diagnostic imaging that spans the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania, Europe and the Middle East.
The partnership was signed 10 months after the IAEA launched the Rays of Hope initiative, a vehicle through which the Agency supports countries to establish or scale up safe, secure and effective radiation medicine capabilities, to bridge a major shortfall in equipment and highly skilled personnel in many developing countries.
“Rays of Hope has a global aspiration to make a truly global impact,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said, referring to a growing number of countries seeking assistance under Rays of Hope. “After starting with 7 in Africa and a few more in Latin America, more than 40 Member States have expressed interest to join Rays of Hope.”
Director General Grossi added: “These countries deserve our help and we are determined to try and provide that help. That requires partnerships. That is why we’re here today.”
Partners will cooperate on research, quality assurance activities, education and training, broadcasting of seminars and webinars, collaboration in data collection, and dissemination of relevant information through the IAEA DIrectory of RAdiotherapy Centres (DIRAC). Their expertise, educational resources and training will also be channelled through regional Rays of Hope ‘anchor centres’ to Member States on the ground. Anchor centres are a network of well-established centres of excellence that enhance sustainability and quality of care in the region.
The partners comprise leading radiation medicine societies, including radiation oncology, radiology and medical physics, which have come together to pursue a global level playing field in the safe and effective delivery of radiation therapy. The 11 professional societies who signed the arrangement were the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), Arab Medical Association Against Cancer (AMAAC), Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology (CARO), European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO), Federation of Asian Organizations for Radiation Oncology (FARO), Ibero Latin American Radiation Oncology Association (ALATRO), International Cancer Expert Corps (ICEC), Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR), Royal College of Radiologists (RCR).
At the event, leaders from these professional societies shared their worldwide activities, future collaborations, and the unique benefit of coordination of these activities in enhancing scale, innovation through research and sustainability of cancer efforts.
President of the AAPM Daniel Bourland said: “The AAPM, which has a long history of collaborating with the IAEA on healthcare initiatives, and with its strengths in quality, safety, subject matter expertise and consensus documents, is well-positioned to contribute to Rays of Hope and related vital strategic endeavours in imaging and radiation medicine, in synergy with the IAEA and our international colleagues.”
The formal signing was followed by a round table that focused on the specific needs in countries, including, low and middle income countries (LMICs), and how partnerships can forge concrete changes to support cancer care worldwide. Currently, over 70% of cancer deaths occur in LMICs, yet only 5% of spending on cancer care goes to those countries. In Africa, more than 20 countries have no radiotherapy treatment units.
President of AORTIC Rose Ihuoma Anorlu said: “The IAEA-led partnership will increase the global impetus in cancer care support to countries in LMICs, which is so badly needed. We look forward to improving access to cancer care in Africa through this global collaboration.”
Rays of Hope
The projects included in Rays of Hope, based on sustainability, build or strengthen radiation safety legislation and infrastructure and provide quality control, guidance, training and equipment. Rays of Hope combines several elements into a set of interventions that build on and complement each other in order to maximize impact. Through a sharp focus on countries without radiotherapy or with inequitable access, Rays of Hope focuses on prioritizing a limited number of high-impact, cost-effective and sustainable interventions in line with national needs and commitment.
The IAEA is focusing on forging new partnerships and tapping into diverse funding sources, including from governments, international financing institutions and the private sector to ensure maximum reach, impact and sustainability of Rays of Hope.
Read more about Rays of Hope and the IAEA’s role in fighting cancer care here.