Advisory Group on increasing access to Radiotherapy Technology in low and middle income countries (AGaRT)
Radiotherapy plays a key role in the treatment of cancer alongside surgery and chemotherapy. Over half of all cancer patients require radiotherapy at some stage during their illness, but unfortunately, there is a large shortfall in available facilities and services. With an estimated shortage of about 5,000 radiotherapy machines in developing countries, 70% of cancer patients living in these regions cannot benefit from this essential curative or pain relieving treatment.
To help turn this issue around, the IAEA, through PACT, established the “Advisory Group on increasing access to Radiotherapy Technology in low and middle income countries” (AGaRT) in 2009, with the technical support of the IAEA's Division of Human Health (NAHU) and Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety (NSRW).
AGaRT acts as a neutral facilitator bringing together radiotherapy equipment manufacturers and suppliers and end-users in developing countries to ensure that the radiotherapy service requirements of LMI countries are met by the technology available.
AGaRT's first phase (2009-2014)
During its first five years, AGaRT provided an unprecedented platform to:
- Assess current radiotherapy opportunities and capacities, and to increase access to radiotherapy technology.
- Identify gaps in the accessibility of radiotherapy services and the limitations in the delivery, operation and maintenance of radiotherapy equipment in LMICs.
- Review and recommend criteria for radiotherapy equipment that is affordable, effective and appropriate for the conditions of LMICs.
- Review and recommend minimum requirements to operate a radiotherapy facility safely and ensure its sustainability in LMICs.
AGaRT's second phase
Over the next five years, AGaRT will consider ways to promote access to safe, affordable and quality radiotherapy as an essential component of comprehensive cancer control services, which are part of a strong and sustainable health system. In this phase the following principles will apply:
- Build on national priorities: It is essential to integrate radiotherapy into national cancer control programmes and align national priorities to the global health policy agenda on prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.
- Ensure continuum of care: A balanced approach is needed to establish comprehensive cancer care, which includes accessible and affordable services for prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care.
- Pursue a multidisciplinary approach: Ways to manage the complex comprehensive cancer care process. Partnership and engagement is required at all levels, especially with health service providers, researchers and public health professionals, as well as with community organizations, patients' groups and representatives of the private sector.
- Strengthen health systems: The delivery of quality and accessible cancer care requires strong and resilient health systems, with the inclusion of appropriate health technologies and specialized human resources. Delivering this fundamentally addresses the capacity and managerial dimensions of national health systems.
- Promote universal health coverage: Providing quality cancer care to all patients in need at an affordable cost should be the objective of a national health system. This would include prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and palliative services.