In an Australian first, a virtual radiotherapy treatment room will be used to train student radiation therapists in the safe and effective delivery of high doses of radiation to affected cancer sites in the body.
The University of Newcastle will be home to the nation’s first virtual linear accelerator machine, which mimics the clinical radiation treatment technology currently used to treat cancer patients in Australian radiation oncology centres.
Life-size 3D visualisations of cancer patients, their internal organs and their cancer sites, are projected onto a virtual radiation therapy treatment machine with students able to drive the unit to deliver virtual treatments.
Cancer remains the biggest killer of Australians and there is a chronic shortage of radiation therapists to treat the 50 per cent of cancer patients who require radiation treatment.
Five leading Australian universities will share a $4.5 million grant from the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) to bring the technology to each institution.
Senior Lecturer in Medical Radiation Science at the University of Newcastle, Dr Shane Dempsey, said the technology would revolutionise the way radiation therapists were trained in Australia.
“Radiation therapy treatment is an integral and highly effective part of the curative approach to cancer treatment, and radiation therapists must be intimately familiar with the very specialist tools of their trade,” Dr Dempsey said.
“The virtual linear accelerator allows us to plan and implement radiation treatment on patient images and see the position of each internal organ and cancer site, ensuring each and every patient is receiving the most effective and safe treatment for them.
“This technology is the ultimate training tool in radiation therapy. These are complex concepts that are difficult to explain without hands-on tools.
“The University of Newcastle is the largest trainer of radiation therapists in Australia and Vert Linac technology will ensure our students will go on clinical placement, and our graduates will start work, with a wealth of practical experience,” Dr Dempsey said.
It is anticipated this virtual technology will be rolled out across Australia in early 2012, reducing the heavy demand currently on radiotherapy clinical sites to provide basic skills training.
The University of Sydney, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Queensland University of Technology and the University of South Australia will also be receiving virtual linear accelerator machines through the Department of Health and Ageing grant.
Photo/vision opportunity: The virtual linear accelerator machine will be demonstrated at an official opening at 10am on Monday 23 January, room HA31 (Hunter building), the University of Newcastle Callaghan campus.
For interviews with Dr Shane Dempsey please contact Katie Porritt in Media and Public Relations on 02 4921 5120.