With these issues in mind, Wilfred Ngwa from Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and the University of Massachusetts, and Twalib Ngoma from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania, have co-authored a book that comprehensively covers the emerging field of global radiation oncology. The e-book, Emerging Models for Global Health in Radiation Oncology, is available as part of the IOP Expanding Physics collection. The first chapter of this book, and all e-book titles, are available to download for free from IOPscience.

"In parallel with the growing global burden of cancer and cancer disparities, there has been a major recent upsurge in radiation oncology global health interest," explained Ngwa. "This book can serve as a one-stop reference for this emerging area, and facilitate capacity building and partnership building, which are crucial in strengthening healthcare systems in resource-poor settings and making more radiotherapy services available."

Target readers include radiation oncology health professionals at all levels, including medical physicists, radiation oncologists and radiation therapists, as well as those working in industry. The book is also an ideal read for global health practitioners, cancer advocates, policy makers, and anyone interested in global health and healthcare systems. Ngwa says that the book will also be used in education and training, including online training programmes in partnership with a number of institutions.

Growth area

Ngwa and Ngoma highlight a number of factors driving the expected growth in global radiation oncology in the coming years. "First, there has been a major upsurge in interest in global health, as seen in recent conferences and summits," said Ngwa. "This upsurge is also highlighted by a recent survey that showed an overwhelming 89.6% of residents expressing strong interest in participating in global radiation oncology."

In addition, a number of organizations have emerged – including Medical Physics Without Borders in North America and MEPHIDA (Medical Physicists in Diaspora for Africa) in Europe – to complement the work being done by the International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP).

Finally, says Ngwa, major advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) have made global radiation oncology care, research and education more feasible. "Today, you do not have to travel from Boston in the USA to Douala in Cameroon to help in radiotherapy treatment planning, or hold a tumour board or mentor a student to conduct research," he explained. "You can simply log onto the Internet for one hour a week and contribute in making a big difference thousands of kilometres across the world."

Writing in the foreword of the book, Anthony Zietman, editor-in-chief of the Red Journal, comments: "I have never been more optimistic about the prospects of making a radical difference in those nations that have no, or minimal, cancer care because the ingredients are all there. The Internet is the 'secret sauce' that will make this contemporary endeavour succeed where previous attempts have been sporadic and half-hearted."

Catalysing collaborations

The new book will be presented and publicized at the Global Health Catalyst Cancer Summit, a yearly event that starts tomorrow at Harvard Medical School. The objective of the summit is to provide a forum to discuss, develop and adopt tangible actions that can be taken, as well as to catalyse high-impact international collaborations.

The theme of this year's summit is "Harambee – partnering for global health; (net)working to eliminate cancer". Ngwa – director of the Global Health Catalyst programme that organizes this summit, along with colleagues from a growing number of partner institutions – explained the thinking: "We have adopted a transformative approach rooted in the values of creative agency and collaborative work embodied in the Swahili word Harambee."

He continued: "This approach focuses on partnership building, leveraging ICT/lower-cost technologies and unprecedented diaspora engagement to catalyse high-impact international collaborations in cancer care research and education that will save lives, advance development and eliminate cancer disparities."

Related stories

• WhatsApp enables teleultrasound in Nigeria
• Global collaborations tackle radiotherapy disparities
• Low-cost X-ray market faces major shake-up
• IAEA analyses European radiotherapy