Science and Technology Facilities Council
Giving cancer patients in developing countries access to radiotherapy
Doctors and scientists from the UK and Africa have united in a bid to develop medical linear accelerators for the developing world and increase the survival rate for its cancer patients.
With funding from the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund, STFC is working with accelerator experts at CERN and the International Cancer Expert Corps (ICEC) to create these new medical linear accelerators for low and middle-income countries.
Mortality rates for cancer patients are much higher in developing countries, where 70% of patients do not have access to radiotherapy treatment.
International experts in accelerator design, medical physics and oncology have been meeting since 2017 to solve the technical problem of re-designing a linear accelerator to make it affordable and robust enough to be used in more challenging environments. It will involve a radical redesign of radiotherapy machines, by stripping the system back to see what might be done differently to increase their reliability.
Last week, over 60 experts from seven African countries, Nepal and the UK met in Botswana to find solutions to the challenges faced by these partner countries in terms of radiotherapy delivery – such as developing a trained workforce to use and maintain the machines.
STFC Executive Chair Professor Mark Thomson, yesterday said:
"I am delighted to see STFC playing a pivotal role in this workshop in Gaborone, bringing together oncologists, medical physicists, engineers and physicists to tackle some of the issues facing those using medical accelerators in developing countries. I am optimistic that this workshop will pave the way for even stronger collaborations between STFC-funded researchers and our partners in Africa.”
Doctors were optimistic that the workshop will push the project forward, and Dr Taofeeq Ige from the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria, said: “I can’t thank the funding agencies enough for making this workshop happen – we believe that with the encouragement and support from your magnanimity we will move things forward in this continent.”
The partners will now be working towards a conceptual design report, which will be followed by a technical design report and eventually a clinical prototype.
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