World Health Organization unveils new guidance on procurement of radiotherapy equipment

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced new guidance on how to procure Radiotherapy, a life-saving cancer treatment, for nations without access to the treatment. Radiotherapy is required for more than half of all cancer patients, especially in the most common types. Yet the treatment remains concentrated in high-income countries, with most low/middle income nations going without.

In a statement released Friday morning, the WHO says, “The new technical guidance aims to ensure that the selection of radiotherapy equipment is appropriate to country and health facility contexts, that treatment is delivered safely, that quality is maintained, and that services are sustainable.”

The update guidelines come as a result of collaboration between the WHO and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is intended for professionals involved in administering or manufacturing the treatment. The guidelines cover methods for “planning, selecting, procuring, regulating, installing or using radiotherapy equipment.

The collaboration between the WHO and IAEA comes as a marriage of the WHO’s mission to spread equitable and quality cancer care, especially for childhood, cervical, and breast cancers, with the IAEA’s mission to utilize nuclear and radiation medicine against disease. Radiotherapy has become a critical feature of breast and childhood cancer treatment and increasing access will hopefully promote better outcomes.

Furthermore, cervical cancer was recently included by Unitaid as a co-morbidity of HIV. As Radiotherapy is also critical in its treatment, the procurement of radiotherapy equipment in areas with high HIV prevalence is critical. With increased access to Radiotherapy, WHO assistant Director-General for Strategic Priorities says, “Cervical cancer is curable if we catch it early. We have the tools to save lives. Radiotherapy is one of them. It is also one of them most effective tools to mitigate pain and suffering associated with advanced cancers.”

The updated guidelines come as a revision of previous guidelines set forth by the IAEA in 2008.

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