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WashU & LIGA/INCAN present at national radiology meeting

Written by Jacaranda van Rheenen, PhD, 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. The meeting is organized by the National Nuclear Security Administration and The World Institute for Nuclear Security.

Geoffrey Hugo, PhD, WUSTL professor of Radiation Oncology and interim director of Medical Physics, and Angel Velarde, MD,  research director for LIGA/INCAN presented on the panel “How Can Public-Private Partnerships and Unique Financing Models be Utilized for Alternative Technologies”. Hiram Gay, MD, WUSTL 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 the Global Health Center at WashU’s Institute for Public Health, the university’s Department of Radiation Oncology, LIGA/INCAN, the U.S. Agency for International Development /American Schools and Hospitals Abroad, equipment manufacturer Varian Medical Systems, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the International Atomic Energy Agency. They also discussed the evolution of the project to install the 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 the original six to nine month period to a one to two week period after their initial evaluation. One unanticipated consequence of this successful project was that the increase in treatment capacity resulted in government funds for patient treatment running out much sooner than anticipated.

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

I am excited to see how the partnership continues to grow and strengthen LIGA/INCAN’s capacity for global cancer research and evolve into a Center of Excellence for delivery of radiation oncology services in Central America.