High equipment cost is a major factor limiting access to cancer care and control in developing countries. Exorbitantly expensive and complex technology is used to treat cancer, leaving low- and middle-income countries with few, if any, options when these nations try to improve cancer care and combat the cancer epidemic.
In 2009, the IAEA challenged radiotherapy equipment manufacturers to develop cheaper solutions. A year later, the industry has risen to the challenge. The inaugural Meeting of a new Advisory Group on Increasing Access to Radiotherapy Technologies in developing countries (AGaRT) commenced on 24 June at the IAEA´s headquarters in Vienna. A consortium of radiotherapy manufacturers and providers, international organizations, representatives from developing nations and IAEA-based experts are developing methods to provide radiation technology affordably and safely in low- and middle-income countries.
The introductory meeting is chaired by Professor Graeme Morgan, Radiation Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia. It will lay the groundwork for AGaRT´s future objectives.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for both users in low- and middle-income countries and the equipment manufacturers to share their experience with the provision of radiotherapy," commented Professor Morgan. "By matching requirements, improvements in access to safe and effective treatments can be become available where it is needed most."
AGaRT was first conceptualized in April 2009 at a side event of the International Conference on Advances in Radiation Oncology, hosted by the IAEA´s Programme of Action on Cancer Therapy (PACT) and the Division of Human Health. During that conference, IAEA Deputy Director General Werner Burkart challenged radiotherapy specialists and the radiotherapy equipment industry to cut costs and complexity to help low- and middle-income countries save more lives by making radiotherapy affordable.
This challenge prompted the establishment of the Advisory Group which draws together radiotherapy users in low and middle-income countries and equipment providers to ensure that developing countries´ unique radiotherapy requirements are met by the equipment suppliers are producing.
AGaRT will meet again later in 2010 in Vienna to continue pursuing the goal of affordable, safer radiotherapy.