Radiating hope: Advancing cancer care by increasing global access to radiation therapy.
Shah MM, Ladd T, Einck JP, Daugherty LC, and Fisher BJ. Radiating hope: Advancing cancer care by increasing global access to radiation therapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2018; 101(2):E37.
Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys
Introduction: Cancer is the expected leading cause of death in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC), with higher mortality than that from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined; more than 9 million cancer-related deaths are estimated in LMIC annually by 2030. Presenting at more advanced stages, 70% of LMIC cancer patients would benefit from radiation therapy (RT); less than 25% will receive RT. 358 million people in 55 LMIC have no access to RT. With a projected need of over 9000 teletherapy units by 2020 the cancer care gap for RT availability is enormous; 60% of the world's cancer patients having access to 30% of the global RT units. Materials/Methods: RadiatingHope (RH) is a non-profit organization founded by radiation oncologists committed to increasing global access to radiation therapy. Through many advocacy and fundraising efforts, including mountain climbing, RH has increased awareness of this dearth of radiation oncology resources in the developing world. RH also facilitates radiation equipment donation (linear accelerators, HDR afterloaders), provides training needed for self-sustaining treatment delivery infrastructure and hosts meetings that encourage collaboration between developing, developed nations and industry to advance cancer care. Results: Since 2010, RH has facilitated the donation of over ten teletherapy units, including five linear accelerators sent to Peru, Ukraine, Tanzania and Honduras; ten HDR afterloaders have been donated, including Senegal's first brachytherapy unit which provided a cure for cervical cancer. Training projects include visits to Panama and Senegal, weekly technical support, as well as financing attendance of international meetings to train physicists. RH volunteers have assisted in calibrating donated physics equipment and plan to do the same for two HDR after loaders en route to Ghana, where on site training will ensure safe use of the new equipment. In addition, RH has held over five mountain climbs (Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro) and three international symposia (Greater Horn Oncology Symposium, Cuban Radiation Oncology Symposium) to continue advocacy and provide platforms to discuss the global advancement of cancer care. Conclusions: RH will sustain its mission to advance global cancer care access, however, the universal need for radiation therapy equipment, human resources and infrastructure is staggering. Additional efforts in advocacy, education, fundraising, equipment donation and international collaborations are needed to overcome this global void in cancer care.