News Global Health Center Chronic Disease

Center aids research project on radiation therapy treatments in Uganda

The Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health is collaborating with WashU’s Department of Radiation Oncology, The McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the Brown School to provide oncologists from WashU, Uganda, Mongolia and Guatemala with virtual training sessions on intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a treatment for cancer patients. The effort is part of the research project, “Rapid Deployment of Radiation Therapy Treatments in Uganda”, lead by WashU Primary Investigator, Baozhou Sun, PhD, associate professor of radiation oncology and an Institute faculty scholar.

Sun and team received a 2021 Global Incubator Seed Grant for the project from WashU’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy and in addition to being a collaborative partner on the project, the Global Health Center is providing technical assistance for the virtual training sessions.

“The goal of this project is to deploy advanced radiotherapy in low and middle-income countries (LMICs),” says Professor Sun. “The Department of Radiation Oncology and the Global Health Center have helped coordinate eight training sessions by WashU radiation oncologists and medical physicists. With this dedicated team effort, we expect to advance global health equity and access to high-quality cancer care throughout the world.”

The virtual training sessions began in November 2021 and continue in 2022. Global oncology partners have also remarked that the virtual sessions have been most informative.  

IMRT training sessions were very useful in clinical practice and described in deep detail for each cancer site, both contouring and planning. Lecturers were wonderful. Because of the complexity of IMRT’s use, we are glad for this good opportunity to participate in the IMRT hands-on training sessions.

Enkhtsetseg Vanchinbazar, chief medical physicist, Department of Radiation Oncology, National Cancer Center of Mongolia

Through a series of lectures, and hand-on sessions, we have gained confidence in IMRT planning and quality assurance tasks, hence, contributing significantly towards improved patient outcomes in Uganda. The team at WashU has shown exceptional commitment towards our training partnership and indeed, they have been extremely resourceful.

Solomon Kibudde, MMed, consultant, radiation oncologist, Department of Radiotherapy, Uganda Cancer Institute

What we liked most were the patients’ case illustrations which made the whole process of learning more clinical and practical. I want to thank you and your team for their dedication and for making these training sessions so productive. It was a great job well done and we look forward to more collaborations and training sessions with you if possible in the future.

Kavuma Awusi, PhD, MMedSc, principal medical physicist, Department of Radiotherapy, Uganda Cancer Institute

These training sessions trigger the communications and interaction between centers around the world to become updated in a technique that is benefiting the quality of radiation therapy that the patients receive and benefit from.

Angel Velarde, MD, MSCE, department director of research, Liga Nacional Contra el Cáncer; international scholar at University of Pennsylvania Center for Global Health

About the research project: Rapid Deployment of Radiation Therapy Treatments in Uganda

Primary Investigator: Baozhou Sun, Radiation Oncology, School of Medicine

Partner institution: Uganda Cancer Institute, Makerere University, Uganda

It is predicted that there will be 24 million new cancer cases per year in 2030 globally, with 75% of cancer deaths in the developing world. Radiotherapy (RT) is an effective and essential therapy for cancer treatment. However, access to advanced RT in low-middle-income-countries (LMICs) has been limited due to a lack of RT expertise/training, expensive equipment and software. The goal of this project is to work with the Uganda Cancer Institute, a partner Institute of Makerere University Medical School (UCI/MU) to adapt a highly-efficient and cost-effective approach for linear accelerator (Linac) deployment and quality assurance processes to support safe and efficient use of RT technologies in Uganda. The outcome from this collaborative project will improve RT quality and safety at UCI/MU, improve efficiency and reduce the cost of RT process at UCI/MU, and inform future projects to implement such technology to other lower and middle income countries in Africa.

Read more about the training collaboration in this story from the Department of Radiation Oncology.