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Cancer Therapy VR Models for Oncology Education by IAEA

IAEA creates cancer therapy VR models

Virtual reality goggles with the IAEA’s new e-learning programme

The IAEA has produced virtual reality (VR) simulations of three cancer treatment methods to expedite the global battle against cancer. This cutting-edge technology is used to teach medical personnel worldwide. Since debuting in July 2023 in Mozambique, the IAEA’s models have helped educate almost 180 similar professions across Africa. These cutting-edge learning technologies may meet education and training requirements, minimise global knowledge gaps, and allow equitable, high-quality care for everybody in resource-constrained environments.

VR offers realistic simulations in highly complex disciplines, like healthcare, making it a popular teaching tool. VR may reduce the cost of cancer care training, which sometimes involves costly facilities, specialised equipment, and strict compliance with local rules and regulations during patient encounters. The worldwide education and training gap widens in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

In part with US extrabudgetary financing, the IAEA produced VR models of external beam radiation, two-dimensional (2-D) brachytherapy, and three-dimensional (3-D) brachytherapy to overcome this gap. These models allow oncologists, radiation therapists, and medical physicists to learn about radiotherapy cancer set-ups, from equipment installation to patient posture, in an immersive environment. This method is useful when cancer centres lack or have not yet commissioned medical equipment.

VR goggles with the IAEA’s new e-learning package Patient Setup and Positioning for Cervical Cancer External Beam Radiotherapy

In July 2023, IAEA launched its virtual reality prototype at a national training session on high-dose rate brachytherapy, which may cure cervical cancer, which accounted for more than a third of new cancer cases in Mozambique in 2020. An IAEA initiative trained over a dozen medical experts to improve radiation at Maputo Hospital, Mozambique’s sole hospital with an oncological unit.

When the course was taught, the VR tool was helpful since the brachytherapy unit was not yet operating. It also allowed participants to retake e-learning courses immediately, which is impossible with a real patient when every minute counts, said course teacher Paulo Alfonso Varela Meléndez.

Virtually, experts may learn cancer treatment processes, practice skills, and improve their preparation without patients or equipment. This enhances learning and prepares doctors to give accurate and effective treatment.

At the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) International Conference on Cancer in Africa in Dakar, Senegal, the IAEA held an e-contouring session using their virtual reality application. More than 150 radiation oncologists, dosimetrists, medical physicists, therapists learned how to outline a patient’s organs and tumours during the cervical cancer 3D brachytherapy training event. The IAEA’s virtual reality approach promotes safe, effective, and efficient cervical cancer treatment on a continent with a high mortality rate.

The 3D virtual reality tool is essential for early-career oncologists learning brachytherapy. Learners may practice in this patient- and radiation-free model. Its simplicity and lack of installation make it useful in areas with few radiation facilities, said workshop attendee Ntokozo Ndlovu.

IAEA virtual reality models will help address African and global demand. It will allow us to start training immediately, support the centres, train fellows before hands-on patient contact, and enable them to implement new techniques, said IAEA radiation oncologist Lisbeth Cordero Mendez, Acting Head of the Division of Human Health’s Applied Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy Section.

A collection of disease-specific e-learning tools and modules, the IAEA’s e-Learning system, known as the Radiation Oncology Virtual Education Resource, will include these models to improve health professionals’ access to educational materials worldwide. She said that Rays of Hope Anchor Centres can teach local doctors with both instruments.

The IAEA has developed English VR models for cervical cancer. The Agency might produce models in the five other UN official languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Russian) and include breast, cervical, and prostate cancer to serve more nations with this innovative training tool with greater financing. This programme welcomes public and commercial partners. Contact NAHU. 

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