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IAEA Receives Medical Linear Accelerator under Partnership from Manufacturer

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A medical linear accelerator like this, to be received by the IAEA in 2018, will enhance the dosimetry services the Agency can provide to experts in Member States. (Photo: Varian Medical Systems)

A new linear accelerator, to be received  from Varian Medical Systems next year, will significantly enhance the assistance the IAEA can provide to hospitals around the world on the safe and effective use of radiotherapy. The equipment will be provided under a partnership agreement signed today at the IAEA General Conference.

The use of linear accelerators, or linacs for short, in radiotherapy has been rapidly growing in recent years, and the IAEA has received an increasing number of requests to provide standards and guidance on their safe and effective use (see chart). Medical linacs use electricity rather than a radioactive source to generate electron beams or high energy x-rays for the targeted destruction of cancer cells.

“The new partnership will further enhance our capabilities to support Member States in the safe and effective use of linacs through the provision of dosimetry services and training of health care professionals working in radiotherapy,” said May Abdel-Wahab, Director of Human Health at the IAEA.

“Varian believes that access to high quality care is a key component in addressing the global cancer challenge,” said Michael Sandhu, Vice President for Global Market Access. “We applaud the IAEA for creating a facility for training professionals from around the world on how to deliver safe and effective radiotherapy treatments for cancer and we are pleased to be providing a Varian medical linear accelerator to assist the IAEA in its efforts.”

The dosimetry standards, guidance and audits provided by the IAEA help practitioners ensure that the right dose is delivered to patients, maximizing both the safety and effectiveness of radiotherapy. This is crucial, because too much radiation could damage healthy tissue, while too little radiation may not be effective in destroying cancer cells. “While the use of linacs in developing countries has been steadily increasing over the years, personnel involved in treating patients often need to be supported to get the training and experience to safely use this technology,” Abdel-Wahab said.

This partnership illustrates how the IAEA and the private sector can work together to achieve valuable results.
Aldo Malavasi, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Applications, IAEA

May Abdel-Wahab, Director of the Division of Human Health at the IAEA, and Michael Sandhu, Vice President for Market Access and Integration at Varian Medical Systems, signing a partnership agreement on 19 September, 2017, in the presence of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for one in six fatalities, according to the World Health Organization. Radiotherapy – using high energy radiation to kill tumour cells – is an important component of cancer treatment, with close to half of all cancer patients requiring radiotherapy treatment.

Due to changing life habits brought about by higher living standards and a rapid increase in life expectancy, cancer is becoming one of the main causes of death in developing countries as well. In low-income countries, where patients have less access to cancer care, the need for radiotherapy is often even greater, since diagnosis can be delayed and the disease discovered in an advanced stage. Estimates suggest that 50-60% of all patients with cancer will require radiotherapy for curative treatment or palliation.

In 2016, linacs accounted for over 80% of the 653 dosimetry audits provided by the IAEA for Member States. With a new linac machine, the IAEA will be able to deliver more dosimetry services to professionals in countries using linacs. IAEA experts will also be able to offer more training opportunities in medical dosimetry and provide additional specific dosimetry guidance to support the use of advanced radiotherapy modalities in Member States, Abdel-Wahab said.  

The partnership is an example of how the IAEA is working with non-traditional donors to support the peaceful use of nuclear technology worldwide.

 “I’d like to thank Varian for partnering with the Agency to help improve cancer care for people around the world,” said Aldo Malavasi, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Applications, which includes the Human Health Programme. “This partnership illustrates how the IAEA and the private sector can work together to achieve valuable results.”

Number of dosimetry audits performed by the IAEA at the request of hospitals in Member States for linear accelerators (Linac) and cobalt-60 radiotherapy machines (Co-60).

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