Formation of an International Gynecologic Radiation Oncology Consortium:
Improving radiotherapy care worldwide through mentorship and training
Radiotherapy is an essential part of cancer treatment, alongside surgery and chemotherapy. Over the last several decades, international agencies have been working to introduce and advance radiotherapy services to improve the access to cancer diagnosis, treatment, care, and control through collective action in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
In response to the growing capacity and need, IGCS has joined a consortium with several specialized organizations to formalize and strengthen radiotherapy education and training for gynecologic radiation oncology specialists in LMICs.
Each organization in the consortium is doing international outreach in this area individually, but together, we are combining our resources and expertise to develop a curriculum and formalize a mentorship and training program for teams (physicians, medical physicists, and radiotherapy technologists) performing radiation oncology, particularly aimed at the centers planning to introduce and develop modern, high-quality treatment techniques. This comprehensive one-year program is designed to support hospitals in LMICs to develop their gynecology radiotherapy services with ongoing hands-on support to enable effective and safe implementation of modern radiotherapy techniques. We also envision collecting real-world data to establish research.
Building on the success of the IGCS Global Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship Program, which provides formalized training in gynecologic oncology surgery at 22 sites in LMICs, this Radiation Oncology Mentorship and Training Program will further expand vital treatment options for patients. The infrastructure, resources, and experience we’ve gained in this arena is critical to these efforts to expand into radiotherapy.
The consortium is currently developing criteria for site selection to ensure participants have the facilities necessary to implement radiotherapy techniques safely and consistently. The curriculum will cover several specific aspects of radiotherapy, including external beam radiotherapy, brachytherapy, research, and imaging, as well as provide ongoing hands-on education and support for centers to enable safe implementation of advanced techniques. This program will consist of a balance of guided web-based and in-person learning with case-based education (including Project ECHO virtual tumor boards), lectures, and training sessions.
Organizations involved in the International Gynecologic Radiation Oncology Consortium:
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), while not officially part of the consortium, has made a practical arrangement with the IGCS to cooperate in IAEA’s Rays of Hope Initiative and provide support to the IAEA Anchor Centers. The main focus of the practical arrangement is on integration of radiation oncology into training programs in LMICs in line with the IAEA guidance, development of educational and training materials to support the professional aspects of radiation oncology, imaging, and medical physics.
This program is yet another testament to IGCS’s and their partner society’s’ commitment to “thinking big” in 2023 and beyond. We are incredibly grateful for the support and enthusiasm from our member volunteers and partners in the consortium who share our vision of a world where patients have access to the best quality care, no matter where they live. With open and true collaboration, our big ideas will become our new reality.
Mary Eiken, MS