News Global Health Center

WashU & LIGA/INCAN present at national radiological meeting

Written by Jacaranda Van Rheenen, manager of the Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health

Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) and LIGA Nacional contra el Cáncer/ Instituto de Cancerología (LIGA/INCAN) in Guatemala City, Guatemala, presented at the Ad Hoc Meeting of Stakeholder States Involved with Technological Alternatives to High-Activity Radioactive Sources organized by the National Nuclear Security Administration and The World Institute for Nuclear Security.

Panelists Geoffrey Hugo, PhD, WashU professor of Radiation Oncology and interim director of Medical Physics, and Angel Velarde, MD, research director for LIGA/INCAN, presented “How Can Public-Private Partnerships and Unique Financing Models be Utilized for Alternative Technologies,” and Hiram Gay, MD, WashU professor of Radiation Oncology talked in the session “Developing a Pathway to Successful Implementation and Sustainability: Prerequisites and Project Planning Requirements”.

The team described the unique partnership between WashU’s Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health, the Department of Radiation Oncology, LIGA/INCAN, the U.S. Agency for International Development /American Schools and Hospitals Abroad, equipment provider Varian Medical Systems, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the International Atomic Energy Agency. They also discussed the evolution of the project to install a state-of-the-art linear accelerator, the Halcyon, at LIGA/INCAN, a comprehensive cancer treatment center that serves approximately 25% of all cancer patients in Guatemala.

The new radiation therapy equipment has significantly increased the number of patients that can be treated as well as improved the quality of care through better and safer treatment, shorter therapy sessions and reduced wait time to start treatments from six to nine months to one to two weeks after their initial evaluation. One unanticipated consequence of this successful project was that the increase in treatment capacity has resulted in government funds for patient treatment running out earlier than anticipated.

The team highlighted the keys to their successful partnership: (i) listening to each other; (ii) transparency and trust; (iii) regular communication; (iv) being flexible as opportunities and obstacles occur; (v) clear objectives; (vi) identifying needs and matching the right expertise/technology; (vii) well defined training plans (for onsite, at WashU or virtual) and team member roles; (viii) continued commitment post-award; and (ix) preparing for unanticipated consequences (e.g. earlier engagement of the government).

Artist Walter Pineda, far left, his daughter and Dr. Edgar Ruiz (head of the Radiation Department) standing in front of the new LIGA/INCAN mural. Photo courtesy of Dr. Ruiz.