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IAEA Launches Masters for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Medical Director, Dr. Hugo Marsiglia speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the second Master programme on advanced radiotherapy, 27 September 2018, Arturo López Pérez Foundation (FALP). (Photo: FALP)

A second intake of students has embarked on a Master’s programme in ‘Advanced Radiotherapy Techniques,’ supported by the IAEA in collaboration with the Arturo López Pérez Foundation (FALP) and the Universidad de los Andes with the aim of accelerating and improving the training of radiation oncologists in the region. The programme, first delivered in 2017, offers students the opportunity to improve and update their knowledge of the industry by providing a global view of the recent developments in the field of radiation oncology.

As socioeconomic development accelerates in Latin America and the Caribbean, populations in the region have been increasingly exposed to risk factors—smoking, unhealthy nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle—which are associated with cancer. As a result, the number of new cancer cases in the region has been estimated to rise from approximately 1.4 million in 2018 to more than 2.5 million cases by 2040. In women, breast, cervical and colorectal cancers are the most common, while men in the region more frequently develop prostate, lung and colorectal cancers. In order to treat and remediate these new cancer cases, more than 660 000 patients require radiotherapy each year in the region.

Modern radiotherapy techniques are critical to the delivery of safe and effective treatment of cancer. As national cancer burdens increase with each year, IAEA Member States in the region have committed themselves to responding. Today, countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region boast more than 630 radiotherapy centres, spread across 28 countries, from the Patagonia region of Chile to Mexico’s northernmost state, Baja California.

Through the efforts of cancer researchers, government policy-makers, and international institutions, the treatment options available to cancer patients have broadened and become more effective. New radiotherapy techniques facilitate high-precision treatment of cancer, based on intensity modulation, real-time incorporation of high-resolution digital imaging, the use of stereotactic techniques, as well as protocol designs which combine the versatility of different techniques and treatments.

The size and heterogeneity of Latin America and the Caribbean, however, means that the region faces specific challenges, including unequal access to modern technology, training opportunities, and quality management. As a result, the IAEA works closely with Member States and partners in the region to establish and develop networks of cooperation and mutual exchange, between both individuals and institutions, for the benefit of the entire region.

While training programmes for radiation oncologists existed in many countries in the region, regional programmes in advanced technologies were not available in Latin America until the IAEA launched the first Master’s programme in ‘Advanced Radiotherapy Techniques’ in 2017, in collaboration with FALP and the Universidad de los Andes. This new Master’s programme aimed to accelerate and improve the training of radiation oncologists in advanced technologies. The programme offers students the opportunity to improve and update their knowledge of the industry by providing a global view of the recent developments in the field of radiation oncology. Following completion of the programme, graduating students are poised to effectively execute the responsibilities of specialized radiation therapy professionals. The academic programme and the study plan, created in consultation with FALP, the Universidad de los Andes, and the IAEA’s Division of Human Health, provides participating students with the tools to implement the newest technologies effectively and safely in their country of origin.

With the support of the Government of Japan, the first edition of the Master’s programme took place in Santiago, Chile in June 2017, with the participation of fellows from Argentina, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Plurinational State of Bolivia and Uruguay.

The second edition of the Master’s programme was launched in September 2018 with participants from Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay. This second edition is supported by the Regional Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL), an agreement between most IAEA Member States in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Following completion of the programme, it is expected that fellows will return home to integrate the knowledge and skills gained during this training period into local radiotherapy centres in their own countries, supporting the design and implementation of modern radiotherapy programmes, including their clinical, educational and research aspects. The fellows will help to implement new technologies that will improve many lives in their home countries. They will also help the IAEA foster collaboration within the region, by sharing their experiences and knowledge.

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