ITAR project aims to improve African radiotherapy access

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A new project is underway to design and develop radiotherapy technologies to give more cancer patients in Sub-Saharan Africa access to radiotherapy.

Dr Taofeeq Ige of the National Hospital Abuja, in Nigeria (Image: National Hospital Abuja)

Project ITAR (Innovative Technologies towards building Affordable and equitable global Radiotherapy capacity) brings together a multi-disciplinary and international team of experts to realise a new type of radiotherapy machine that is affordable and robust enough to be used in more challenging environments.

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It is estimated that by 2040 there will be 27.5 million new cancer cases worldwide each year, leading to more than 13 million deaths. Up to 70 per cent of these will occur in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), including those in Africa with an acute shortage of radiotherapy machines.

There are currently 385 radiotherapy machines in the region, and 60 per cent of these are located in South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. A recent report published by the Lancet Oncology Commission estimated that by 2035 at least 5,000 additional radiotherapy machines would be needed to meet radiotherapy demands in Africa’s LMICs.

In the first phase of ITAR, which is funded by STFC and led by the Universities of Lancaster and Oxford, the team will define the persistent shortfalls in basic infrastructure, equipment and specialist workforce and develop new solutions leading to a detailed specification and conceptual design. ITAR will then progress to a prototype development phase of a medical linear accelerator for radiotherapy at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory.

Lancaster’s Prof. Graeme Burt, also of the Cockcroft Institute, is leading the first phase of the ITAR project.

“Current radiotherapy machines are optimised for use in western countries,” he said in a statement. “The ITAR project aims to design specifically for use in Africa, making it far more tolerant to the local environment which will greatly increase the capacity for more lives to be saved.”

STFC’s Prof Deepa Angal-Kalinin, also of the Cockcroft Institute and Manchester University, is leading the accelerator design.

The ITAR project is part of a larger international project that includes the International Cancer Expert Corps (ICEC), CERN, STFC (Daresbury Laboratory), and led by Lancaster and Oxford Universities. It brings together partners from the Cockcroft Institute, STFC’s Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC), the John Adams Institute, Swansea University, King’s College London, National Hospital Abuja, Botswana-UPENN Partnership and Princess Marina Hospital alongside many other international partners.