First patient in Africa treated with RapidArc radiotherapy
14 Feb 2011
A 66-year-old prostate cancer patient has become the first
person in Africa to be treated using RapidArc technology from Varian
Medical Systems. The man received his treatment at the Netcare Unitas
Hospital in the Pretoria suburb of Centurion in South Africa.
The advanced RapidArc system, which has been introduced
clinically on the hospital’s Varian Clinac iX medical linear
accelerator, delivers precise image-guided IMRT (intensity modulated
radiotherapy) up to four times faster than conventional IMRT.
The RapidArc IMRT beam quickly delivers the dose while
continuously rotating around the patient. Studies show that faster
treatments allow for greater precision, since there is less chance
of patient or tumor movement during treatment delivery and, with
less time on the treatment couch, also allow for greater patient
“The first treatment went very smoothly and was completed in just
two and a half minutes,” said Stanley Makgere, medical physicist in
charge, adding that just two arcs were needed during treatment
delivery. “Our team has experience in many treatment methods and we
feel this is the best way to treat cancer patients with radiation
because it is fast, precise and easy to use.
“RapidArc will benefit our patients in a number of ways but most
importantly it will reduce the dose to critical structures and allow
the clinicians to increase the dose to cancerous tissues.” The speed
of the system will also make it possible for the hospital to treat
more cancer patients with state of the art technology.
Mr. Makgere said his team intends to use RapidArc for prostate
and head/neck cancer patients before introducing more complex
procedures such as extra-cranial stereotactic treatments, which
involve the use of very high-dose beams to quickly attack certain
types of tumors in areas like the lung, liver, or spine.
Prior to the installation of the advanced Clinac iX linear
accelerator — which was ordered in 2009 — the hospital’s
radiotherapy department was equipped with a single energy machine
with no beam-shaping accessories, so the new technology enables
patients to benefit from far more advanced techniques than
The 470-bed Netcare Unitas Hospital is the flagship of the
Netcare group’s 54 private hospitals across South Africa, offering
world-class healthcare services to patients from across Pretoria,
Johannesburg, Mpumalanga and Swaziland. The radiotherapy department
treats about 300 new patients annually.
“South Africa has always kept abreast of global developments in
cancer treatment but the number of linear accelerators per capita in
both the public and private sectors is still very low compared to
other countries,” says Dr. Makgere.
“With great distances between cities, the treatment centers are
not easily accessible to many communities and there are still long
waiting lists for treatment in public sector hospitals. Here at
Netcare Unitas however, we are generally able to start treating
patients within two weeks of diagnosis and one week after referral
to our facility by the radiation oncologist.”
Fritz Derrer, Varian’s regional sales manager, said, “The team at
Netcare Unitas has been able to introduce RapidArc just a few weeks
after first introducing conventional IMRT, which is testament to the
capability of the team and the ease of use of the system. Along with
our local representative Tecmed Africa, we are honored to be working
with this pioneering hospital to introduce advanced techniques for
the benefit of cancer patients in South Africa.”