Applied Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy (ARBR)

Programme Activities of the IAEA's Sub-Programme on Applied Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy

The activities of the Applied Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy (ARBR) Sub-programme fit into three broad categories:

  • research directed at the needs of developing countries;
  • enhancement of radiation efficacy and tumour selectivity by chemical or physical means;
  • high technology treatments

These topics may be handled by means of Coordinated Research Programmes or by Group Meetings and are constantly evolving.

This Section provides the major support for a Sub-programme on Radiation Oncology, whose aim is to improve the management of cancer in IAEA Member States, with a special focus on low and middle income (LMI) countries. The objectives are to enhance Member States capabilities to establish sound policies on the delivery of radiotherapy and cancer treatment, as well as to ensure an optimized delivery of radiotherapy and the effective and efficient utilization of current and future advanced cancer treatment technologies.

The activities are grouped into three broad categories of projects pertaining to palliative radiotherapy, curative radiotherapy, and the use of advanced techniques. The work of the Section comprises both Coordinated Research Projects (CRPs) and Technical Cooperation (TC) Projects. Technical expertise is provided to over 120 projects related to radiotherapy and capacity building. CRPs are networks of at least five national research institutions coordinated to conduct research within LMI countries. TC projects include providing recommendations for the purchase of equipment, and organizing teaching and training in Member States. The latter includes the production of syllabi for teaching in radiation oncology and radiation biology, training of radiation therapy technologists (RTTs) and radiotherapy nurses, as well as producing programmes for short national and regional teaching courses on cancer treatment.

The production of evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of site-specific cancers is another important component of the work programme. In addition, the Section provides technical support to the Programme of Action on Cancer Therapy (PACT), and to a sub-programme on health effects of radiation – which includes sterilisation of allograft tissues using high doses of radiation.

The update of a database called Directory of Radiotherapy Centres (DIRAC) continues with the provision of detailed and up-to-data data on the number of centres and radiotherapy equipment availability worldwide.

Palliative cancer management using radiotherapy

Main Outputs: Guidelines are being developed for the use of radiotherapy in common palliative clinical situations, and for implementing evidence-based resource-sparing radiotherapy strategies for common clinical situations. Reports and scientific publications from the results of CRPs in developing resource-sparing approaches to palliative treatment using radiotherapy are being prepared. Educational events in palliative radiotherapy and radiation biology will continue to be implemented in the framework of TC regional projects.

Curative cancer management using radiotherapy

Main Outputs: Reports and scientific publications from the results of CRPs on radiotherapy for site-specific cancers are being prepared e.g. for head-and-neck, cervix, breast, and lung cancer. Guidelines are being produced for the treatment of common cancers in limited resource settings. Particular topics include comparison of costs and cost/benefit of different types of radiation equipment, tumour site-specific meetings, discussion of advances in radiotherapy from biological intervention versus new technology, and advances in radiation oncology of lung cancer. Educational events in curative radiotherapy and radiation biology will continue to be implemented in the framework of TC regional projects..

Developments in cancer management using radiotherapy

Main Outputs: There will be reports and scientific publications on e.g. evaluation of a high dose-rate brachytherapy device based on Cobalt-60, and comparison between 3-dimensional and 4-dimensional radiotherapy. Also there will be results from new CRPs in advanced clinical and/or applied radiobiological topics e.g. stem-cell mediated recovery of irradiated normal tissues.

Health effects of environmental and other whole-body irradiations

Main Outputs: Studies on low dose health effects, mainly in experimental laboratory systems, are being managed in co-operation with the National Institute for Radiological Sciences in Chiba, Japan, which is an IAEA Collaborative Centre in the pilot study in the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications. Publications and a joint Symposium are planned. Consultants will discuss biological advances in the management of people exposed to high doses of radiation in accidents

Radiation sterilization to improve tissue banking

Main outputs: Documents and reports will be produced on the use of radiation to sterilise tissue allografts prior to transplantation. Revision of the IAEA Standards document relating to the use of radiation-sterilised allograft tissues is being done in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Section provides technical support for the revised Thematic Plan in Tissue Banking.

Further information

Details on staffing, publications and other items regarding the ARBR Section can be found elsewhere on this website.