12:34pm Wednesday 23 October 2019

Australian-first lab simulates real-world radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is one of the main treatment options for patients diagnosed with cancer and contributes greatly to the high cancer cure rates in Australia.

Using anatomical and functional imaging studies to design courses of treatment for patients, radiation therapy encompasses three key stages – simulation, planning and treatment.

The University’s Callaghan campus already offers students a radiation therapy computer planning room and a 3-dimensional VERT (Virtual training) treatment facility. The new laboratory – the only one of its kind in Australia – allows students to also be trained in the initial phase of radiation therapy, simulation.

Radiation Therapy Lecturer, Yolanda Surjan, said simulation was a process where radiation treatment fields were defined to allow radiation dose delivery to the target volume (tumour) and at the same time reduce the dose to the normal surrounding tissue.

“The new lab will create a realistic hospital environment for students to learn how to develop patient treatment set-ups including immobilisation devices such as individualised masks used to ensure a patient remains in one position throughout the therapy to reduce the possibility of a ‘geographical miss’ during radiation delivery,” Ms Surjan said.

“The simulation laboratory gives radiation therapy students exposure to simulation concepts before clinical placement where it can difficult to participate in simulation procedures because they are quite complex.

“The University of Newcastle is the largest trainer of radiation therapists in Australia and this suite of technologies ensures our students will graduate with a wealth of practical experience.

“We are the only University in Australia to offer this comprehensive, hands-on experience to radiation therapy students.”

The $327,000 radiation therapy simulation laboratory, jointly funded by the University and the Australian Government’s Capital Expenditure and Health Workforce Australia funding, is fitted out with positioning lasers, optical distance illuminators and immobilisation equipment.

The University’s radiation therapy computer planning room, with the latest comprehensive 3-dimensional treatment planning software was opened in 2006 and a VERT (Virtual Training) room, with a 3-dimensional Virtual Linear Accelerator, was officially opened in January 2012.

Photo/vision opportunity: The Radiation Therapy Simulation Laboratory will be officially opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen on Thursday, 14 February 2013, from 10am. The laboratory is located in the Hunter Building, Level C, HC102, the University of Newcastle Callaghan campus. Media are welcome to attend.

Interviews: Ms Yolanda Surjan is available for interviews on 492 17850 or 0412 778255.

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