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IAEA Emphasizes Work in Quality Assurance, Capacity Building at ALATRO Congress

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Students in the Master of Advanced Radiotherapy programme are taught treatment planning techniques as part of the curriculum. (Photo: Arturo López Pérez Foundation)

Experts have highlighted the IAEA’s expanding role in radiation oncology in Latin America at the sixth Ibero Latin American Radiation Oncology Association (ALATRO) Congress in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic this week.

The conference, being held from 5 to 8 November, focuses on clinical and technological advances in radiation oncology.

IAEA representatives have organised a session to discuss the IAEA’s involvement in radiation oncology initiatives in the region, including educational activities and coordinated research projects, which bring together research institutes from different countries to collaborate on research topics of common interest.  They have also presented new data recently added to the IAEA’s Directory of Radiotherapy Centres (DIRAC). DIRAC is a database of radiotherapy hospitals and other clinical institutions with radionuclide and high-energy teletherapy machines.  

The Quality Assurance Team for Radiation Oncology (QUATRO) methodology has also been discussed. “QUATRO is an integrated mission to evaluate the processes in a given radiotherapy department,” said Alfredo Polo, an IAEA radiation oncologist. Quality assurance consists of structured procedures and actions aimed at maintaining a high level of quality diagnosis or treatment of patients. “The IAEA helps improve efficiency and effectiveness according to established standards”, he added.

Assistance with equipment procurement, such as equipment for a radiobiology lab in Venezuela, as well as treatment planning, such as the introduction of a new treatment planning system in Guatemala, are among the activities the IAEA is involved with in the region through the Technical Cooperation Programme. Providing much needed equipment and guidance on treatment planning is crucial for building capacity in radiotherapy in the region.

Collaboration between IAEA and ALATRO

The IAEA and ALATRO have a very strong cooperative relationship. In addition the IAEA supports capacity building, research, documentation and quality assurance activities in the Latin American and the Caribbean region. “The IAEA helps ALATRO fill a knowledge gap by providing syllabi, publications, and trainings upon request,” said Polo. Though Latin America continues to face capacity and equipment shortages in radiotherapy, “the region has made significant developments in the past 20 years,” said Polo.

Latin America has over 1 million cancer cases per year, of which more than half require radiotherapy. “To meet the needs in the region additional resources in terms of equipment, human resources, training and research are needed. For this purpose the role of the IAEA’s collaboration with ALATRO is integral to meet these needs,” said Eduardo Zubizarreta, Head of the Applied Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy Section at the IAEA.

The IAEA has participated in curriculum development and is funding the world’s first Master of Advanced Radiotherapy program, in cooperation with the Fundación Arturo López Pérez (Arturo López Pérez Foundation), the University of the Andes and ALATRO.    

In addition to presentations at the conference, the IAEA will have a booth at the meeting with publications and videos to inform interested participants about the IAEA’s activities. Students from the Advanced Radiotherapy program will be present at the booth to talk about their impressions of the IAEA-funded program.

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