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Convening Collaborating Centres in Cancer Care for Improved Impact through Innovation


IAEA Collaborating Centres in Human Health exploring how they can further address global cancer care gaps through innovation. (Photo: O. Belyakov/IAEA) (O. Belyakov/IAEA)

The scale of the global cancer crisis, shown in statistics from the Global Cancer Observatory, spotlights the need for new tools, approaches and insights to manage cancer better, treat more patients and respond faster, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Responding to this need, the IAEA convened five Collaborating Centres at the end of January to examine how it can efficiently leverage innovation, collective experience and best practice to address global gaps in cancer care.

Since its launch in February 2022, the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative has endeavoured to expand access to radiotherapy and diagnostic medical imaging. As the world attempts to provide life-saving equipment, the cancer incidence continues to grow and gaps widen. Innovation, however, can accelerate the speed and scale of progress through ground-breaking research into resource-sparing treatment approaches. As well, state-of-the-art learning platforms can advance education and training, and global databases can generate novel insights for more targeted action. Through innovation, the world can ensure that all patients receive timely, effective and high-quality care – regardless of where they are located.

Building upon its more than 60 years of experience in radiation medicine, the IAEA organized a hybrid consultancy meeting at its Headquarters in Vienna on 30 January. With several IAEA Collaborating Centres in Human Health from around the world in attendance, representatives exchanged experiences and expertise as they presented their respective institution’s efforts to advance care.

Among other things, St. John’s Research Institute (India) highlighted its work with the IAEA on applying stable isotope techniques across the lifecycle. The Hiroshima International Council for Health Care of the Radiation-Exposed (HICARE) (Japan) showcased its various training courses on building capacity within human health and on radiation effects while the National Cancer Institute (Egypt) shared its research on optimizing radiotherapy resources. The King Hussein Cancer Center (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) similarly spotlighted success stories in the region, such as the impact of its work with the IAEA on Iraq’s nuclear medicine services. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (United States of America) – the latest of the IAEA Collaborating Centres in that field – outlined upcoming training and educational activities in radiation oncology, radiation physics, radiology, nuclear medicine and nutrition.

Those IAEA Collaborating Centres promote the practical use of nuclear techniques across the globe. They focus on research, education and training – all of which help catalyse the cancer care that is needed to ensure a world in which no one is left behind. Exploring synergies and strategies at the regional and subregional level will be critical for identifying the opportunities that these Centres can harness going forward, notably in the context of Rays of Hope’s pillar on innovation.

Greater coordination is needed to strengthen global and regional impact, several speakers stressed as they surveyed subjects ranging from research and certification to data sharing and capacity building. Leveraging each other’s strengths can create the opportunities and infrastructure that will enhance capacity; establish multi-centre studies; and even encourage research on key topics such as the long-term sustainability of linear accelerators, they noted. Partnerships between high-income countries and LMICs can facilitate the much-needed research that is needed to address local cancer burdens. However, these research projects and partnerships must reflect the priorities of LMICs, representatives pointed out.

In turning their attention to the importance of training for mentees and mentors, speakers also underlined the value of online webinars and virtual tumour boards. Through these platforms, healthcare providers can meet regularly, review new cancer cases and discuss complex care challenges. Such spaces serve to sharpen skills while encouraging intra- and inter-institutional collaboration.

“Centres emphasized the importance of collaboration in bringing the full force of our collective efforts and expertise to support a world for which equitable cancer care for all is long overdue,” reflected May Abdel-Wahab, Director of the IAEA Division of Human Health. “As we move forward together in developing novel approaches to manage cancer and new ways to assess the impact of our interventions, the importance of collaboration in research – including through IAEA Collaborating Centres – cannot be understated.”

IAEA Director of the Division of Human Health May Abdel-Wahab, IAEA Section Head of Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Diana Paez and Collaborating Centre representatives at the 30 January consultancy meeting on how research and innovation lead to progress against cancer globally. (Photo: O. Belyakov/IAEA)

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