A meeting in Miami this week will bring together some of the world’s leading experts from inside and outside the clinic to discuss safety in radiation therapy — a critical method for treating cancer.
Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the three main treatments for cancer. It is estimated that two-thirds of all patients with cancer will receive radiation at some point during their course of treatment.
The meeting, “Safety in Radiation Therapy — A Call to Action,” takes place June 24-25, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Miami and will be hosted by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).
“Radiation therapy provides safe and effective treatment of cancer and other diseases for hundreds of thousands of people each year,” says AAPM President Michael Herman, Ph.D., a co-organizer of the meeting. “The purpose of this gathering is to ask, as a profession, how we are going to continue to move forward and create the safest environment for patients.”
“Our highest priority has always been ensuring patients receive the safest, most effective treatments. However, even one error is too many and I hope this meeting will help us make radiation therapy even safer,” says ASTRO Board Chairman Tim R. Williams, M.D. “It is frightening to receive the diagnosis of cancer, and completing treatment successfully should be the primary concern of cancer patients and their families. They need to know that their treatments are as safe as possible, period.”
The meeting will examine the process of radiation therapy from all perspectives, including those of all members of cancer treatment teams — the radiation oncologists, medical physicists, radiation therapists, and dosimetrists who together care for and oversee the safety of the patient.
The meeting will also detail what roles the major equipment manufacturers, regulators, hospital administrators, and patient advocacy groups may play in finding new ways of improving the safe delivery of radiation in the future.
“We are bringing together world experts and team members at the point-of-care in a unique program,” says William Hendee, Ph.D., a co-organizer of the meeting. “We look forward to an open, transparent discussion of everything that happens from when a patient is first diagnosed until the patient has completed treatment to look for ways to improve.”
The delivery of radiation therapy has evolved into a complex, technologically-sophisticated, computer driven process over the last few decades, Hendee says. This is generally a boon for people with cancer, says Herman, because it allows doctors and treatment teams to fight cancer using sophisticated new equipment and methods that improve cure rates and reduce side effects.
At the same time, mistakes in using this complex technology, along with human errors in general, may lead to underdoses, overdoses, and misaligned exposures. While rare, the results of technical failures and human errors can harm the patient.
The management of the delivery of radiation therapy requires the careful coordination of teams of professionals who interact with the complex technology and with each other to directly provide safe and effective patient care. Away from the clinic, scientists, engineers, government regulators, and patient advocates can all play roles in improving safety as well.
The meeting in Miami brings all of these different groups to the same table. The goal will be to openly discuss and find ways to continue to improve the performance and patient safety in the radiation therapy process.
Possible solutions may include new devices, software, and other technological improvements; automatic early warning systems that recognize unintended radiation doses immediately; and process improvements that enhance safety by eliminating human error.
Source: American Institute of Physics, USA