CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Sept. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Varian Medical Systems (NYSE: VAR) is collaborating with two leading Cape Town universities to launch Africa's first 'Access to Care' program, designed to train cancer caregivers in delivering advanced conformal radiotherapy treatments.
The three-month course, which will be delivered in conjunction with Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Cape Town's department of radiation oncology, aims to train and support radiation therapy departments to implement and maintain 3D conformal radiation therapy treatment programs at their hospitals. In many cases, the delegates' only experience of radiotherapy will have been older cobalt-based 2D treatments.
"As radiation oncology becomes increasingly precise and cancer centers worldwide can offer ever more advanced treatments for their patients, many parts of the developing world are still significantly under-equipped with too few machines to treat their rapidly growing cancer populations," says Michael Sandhu, who heads Varian Oncology Systems' new global market development team. "Developing regions are starting to invest in new equipment to address this capacity gap but they are often hindered by a lack of qualified staff to plan treatments and run the equipment. 'Access to Care' is one of the ways in which Varian, as the global leader in radiation oncology, is seeking to bridge the skills gap between well-equipped countries and developing nations."
The Access to Care program will be offering two courses a year in South Africa and each program will be attended by four teams of radiation oncologists, medical physicists and radiotherapy therapists from participating hospitals from across the African continent. The course includes three weeks of classroom-based training at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, which is equipped with a virtual linear accelerator and four workstations, followed by a 10-week remote mentorship program. A separate software lab equipped with 10 workstations is available for students to practice contouring and treatment planning – important steps in the radiotherapy process. The classroom is linked to Varian's virtual education environment hosted in its European headquarters in Cham, Switzerland.
"The training of cancer specialists and their teams enters a new era with the Access to Care program, which is at the leading edge of training globally and will help towards better and safer care of patients with cancer," said Professor Raymond Abratt, retired head of radiation oncology at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town, and current chairperson of the South African Society of Clinical and Radiation Oncologists (SASCRO), at a program launch event that took place in Cape Town today. "Radiation Oncology is an important component of cancer treatment in Africa and I congratulate all those involved in realizing this exceptional facility and the associated training programs."
Access to Care also offers training programs in Vietnam and has plans to commence a similar project in Algeria. "There is some real momentum behind our 'Access to Care' training programs and we are excited about the chance to help provide greater access to advanced cancer treatments in developing nations," says Jose-Manuel Valentim, Varian's director market development in the EMEIA and APAC regions.
Cancer in Africa
According to a 2013 study published in Lancet Oncology, only 23 out of 52 African countries have radiotherapy available for patients. The World Health Organization reports that by 2030 there will be some 1.6 million new cancer cases in Africa each year, resulting in 1.2 million deaths. The most common cancers in Africa are cancers of the cervix, breast, lung, liver and prostate.
Varian has installed more than 100 radiotherapy treatment systems in Africa over the last 25 years. The company recently announced major projects in Algeria, Egypt and South Africa. Varian has also installed equipment in several sub-Saharan nations including Ghana, Angola, Kenya, and Madagascar.
About Varian Medical Systems
Varian Medical Systems, Inc. (NYSE: VAR), of Palo Alto, California, focuses energy on saving lives by equipping the world with advanced technology for fighting cancer and for X-ray imaging. The company is the world's leading manufacturer of medical devices and software for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiation. The company provides comprehensive solutions for radiotherapy, radiosurgery, proton therapy and brachytherapy. The company supplies informatics software for managing comprehensive cancer clinics, radiotherapy centers and medical oncology practices. Varian is also a premier supplier of X-ray imaging components, including tubes, digital detectors, and image processing software and workstations for use in medical, scientific, and industrial settings, as well as for security and non-destructive testing. Varian Medical Systems employs approximately 6,900 people who are located at manufacturing sites in North America, Europe, and China and approximately 70 sales and support offices around the world. For more information, visit http://www.varian.com or follow us on Twitter.
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SOURCE Varian Medical Systems