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World Cancer Day: IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme and the Fight Against Cancer


A patient getting ready for radiotherapy treatment at the Korle Bu Hospital in Ghana. The IAEA supported the hospital through training and equipment. (Photh: D. Calma/IAEA)

Every year, cancer claims the lives of 8 million people worldwide, including 4 million people who die prematurely, between the ages of 30 and 69. This burden is particularly significant where access to proper treatment and care is limited. It is estimated that, by 2030, over two thirds of all cancer-related deaths will occur in developing countries.

As part of its mandate to support countries in the use of nuclear techniques for development, the IAEA is fully engaged in the fight against cancer. Improving access to effective cancer treatment in developing countries is one of Director General Yukiya Amano’s key priorities, and the IAEA is making radiotherapy and nuclear medicine more widely available through its technical cooperation programme. Recent achievements include the following:

  • The IAEA helped Uganda restart radiotherapy services for cancer patients by assisting with the safe decommissioning of the Uganda Cancer Institute’s old radiotherapy machine and by purchasing a new one on a cost-sharing basis with the Government. The new Cobalt-60 machine will complement the existing brachytherapy service at the Institute to offer treatment to women suffering from gynaecological cancer.
  • In Cambodia, the IAEA partnered with the Government to build the Techo Santepheap Centre, the country’s first-ever national cancer centre. The IAEA contributed approximately €2 million to the centre’s design, the commissioning of radiotherapy and nuclear medicine machines, and to specialized staff training.
  • With IAEA support, Tegucigalpa’s Hospital San Felipe inaugurated the first public brachytherapy service in Honduras. The new equipment will serve an expected 1000 patients per year, substantially increasing the number of cancer patients treated and enhancing the capacity of hospital personnel.

Technical cooperation projects also provide specialist training to both young and experienced cancer care professionals, helping them build, maintain, and update their skills to keep pace with technological innovation. Recent examples include the following:

  • Thanks to a series of IAEA fellowships, training courses, and exchanges of information in radiation oncology and medical physics, Jordan’s King Hussein Cancer Center has established itself as a leading hospital in the Middle East and offers state-of-the-art training programmes in nuclear medicine and diagnosis.
  • In Indonesia, the IAEA is supporting a telemedicine project in radiation oncology. By donating the necessary hardware and providing expertise on network design, the Agency has helped the Indonesian Radiation Oncology Society connect radiotherapy departments at eight hospitals around the country.
  • Building on its success helping Azerbaijan establish, equip, and staff a cyclotron and PET-CT facility at the nuclear medicine centre in Baku, a follow-up project is providing continued training of staff in the fields of radiopharmacy and nuclear medicine.
  • To help overcome the shortage of qualified radiation oncologists in Latin America, the IAEA is supporting a first-of-a-kind Masters course on advanced radiotherapy. The one-year programme, which includes 15 students from 12 countries, is co-hosted by the Chilean Arturo López Pérez Foundation (FALP) and the University of Los Andes.

To increase the effectiveness of the global response to the cancer crisis, the IAEA is cooperating closely with other organizations with complementary expertise. Recent developments include the following:

  • In June 2017, the IAEA signed a Practical Arrangement with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) setting out a framework for cooperation in areas including cancer control.
  • Working with the WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the IAEA, through its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), conducts imPACT Reviews to evaluate a country’s capacities to plan and implement comprehensive cancer control programmes, assess national capabilities to develop and implement long-term radiation medicine infrastructure plans, and provide recommendations to Ministries of Health for developing and managing cancer control programmes in a sustainable manner. In 2017, the IAEA and its partners conducted imPACT Reviews in Burundi, Republic of Congo, Swaziland, and Togo. The conclusion of this week’s mission to Indonesia will mark the 90th imPACT Review conducted since 2005.


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