Regional Training Course on Quality Assurance in the Physical and Technical Aspects of Radiotherapy

Argonne, Illinois, USA
12-23 September 2011

Background information

Cancer is a leading cause of death globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 7.6 million people died of cancer in 2005, and that 70% of the global cancer death toll is carried by low and middle income countries. Global incidence is expected to rise from 11 million new cases in 2005 to 16 million in 2020. Radiotherapy is an important component of treatment for over 50% of cancer patients in high income countries, and the need for radiotherapy is even greater in low and middle income countries, where patients present with cancer in advanced stages. Radiotherapy equipment alone, however, cannot answer the increasing need for treating growing numbers of cancer patients. To achieve maximum impact, the transfer of radiotherapy technology must be a part of a broader cancer control strategy that includes prevention, early detection, earlier diagnosis of the common cancers and access to treatment and palliation.

To respond to the urgent need for action, in 2004 the IAEA created the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), designed to strengthen the links between technology transfer for radiotherapy and national capacity building in cancer prevention and control. It addresses challenges such as infrastructure gaps and, through partnerships, builds capacity and long term support for continuous education and training of cancer care professionals, as well as for community-based civil society action to combat cancer.

Medical physicists play an important role in the safe and effective delivery of treatments in radiation oncology. In radiotherapy, the delivery of treatments is getting increasingly sophisticated. Consequently, quality assurance of physical and technical aspects in radiotherapy is essential. This training course will offer the participants a comprehensive view of the principles of radiation physics applied to radiation oncology. The physical and technical aspects of radiotherapy will be discussed as well as the principles of quality assurance in the delivery of a radiotherapy treatment. Starting with the identification of the various components of the radiotherapy process and a short summary of the basic physics concepts the course will then cover dosimetric systems, standards, physics and clinical dosimetry in teletherapy and brachytherapy, imaging, and radiation biology. Some of the modern technologies such as conformal radiotherapy, IMRT, gating, HDR will be addressed specifically. Whenever possible the subjects will be covered from the point of view of the assurance of the quality in the delivery to oncological patients. Some attention will be devoted to accident prevention and defensive strategies and the role of radiation protection.

Target countries

Selected African Countries participating in RAF6031, Medical Physics in Support of Cancer Management.

Purpose of the course

The purpose of the course is to offer the participants a comprehensive view of the principles of radiation physics applied to radiation oncology. The course will provide the physical and technical aspects of radiotherapy as well as the principles of quality assurance in the delivery of a radiotherapy treatment, which are to be applied no matter which technology is used.

The course will furthermore sensitize participants as to the role they are playing within the larger picture of cancer care delivery and as to the need to optimize limited country resources through careful planning at the national level in line with objectives pursued by IAEA’s PACT programme.

Participants' qualifications and experience

Medical physicists working in radiotherapy departments on a regular basis. The candidates should be university graduates in physics or engineering with at least 2 years experience in a radiotherapy department. Preference will be given to candidates who will be involved in commissioning of radiotherapy equipment in the next 2 years.

Nature of the course

The various topics in the course will be covered by multiple specialists in the field. Opportunities for discussion, questions and answers will be provided. Practical exercises for two days will be performed at several laboratories dealing with the calibration of orthovoltage, cobalt, photon and electron beams using the IAEA TRS 398 Protocol. On the last day a written test will be given to the participants and an evaluation of the course will be conducted.