SANTIAGO – The first of its kind Masters course on advanced radiotherapy has started in Chile, with the aim to overcome the shortage of qualified radiation oncologists in Latin America.
“The advance in radiotherapy has been so quick since the mid-1990s that many countries in Latin America are left behind,” said Eduardo Zubizarreta, Head of the Applied Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy section at the IAEA.
“There is a gap in the region that we are trying to fill,” he added.
This is the first time the IAEA supports a course of this type in advanced technology.
In Latin America, there are 1 089 655 cancer cases per year, out of which 573 385 require radiotherapy. Nonetheless, only 503 000 are treated with this technology. The region needs over 300 radiation oncologists to cover these needs, Zubizarreta said.
The course, which includes 15 students from 12 countries, will last one year and is co-hosted by the Chilean Arturo López Pérez Foundation (FALP) and the University of Los Andes. IAEA experts have worked with the organizers in Santiago on the curriculum, which includes practical, theoretical and online courses. Graduating students will receive a title from the University of Los Andes.
As a knock-on benefit, students are expected to train other radiation oncologists and help drive more advanced technologies in their countries, Zubizarreta said.
“Once you have the knowledge, you feel an obligation to train others,” said Cecilia Atencio Rosselot, one of the selected students from Argentina. “Since we will be upgrading our centre’s equipment in 2018, my plan is to come back with what I’ve learned about advanced radiotherapy and train my team.”
Since the IAEA began its work in human health over 50 years ago, the use of nuclear techniques in medicine and nutrition has become one of the most widespread peaceful applications of atomic energy. The IAEA assists countries with the coordination of research projects, expert guidance, equipment, the development of internationally harmonized guidelines, training and knowledge exchange.
The initiative is partly funded by the Government of Japan through the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) and the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme, under the framework of a regional project of the Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL).
The IAEA expects to replicate the course to address the shortage of trained radiotherapy staff in other continents.