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Miami meeting on radiation therapy targets patient safety

COLLEGE PARK, MD (June 24, 2010) -- A meeting in Miami this week will bring together some of the world's leading experts from inside and outside the clinic to discuss safety in radiation therapy -- a critical method for treating cancer.

Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the three main treatments for cancer. It is estimated that two-thirds of all patients with cancer will receive radiation at some point during their course of treatment.

The meeting, "Safety in Radiation Therapy -- A Call to Action," takes place June 24-25, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Miami and will be hosted by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

"Radiation therapy provides safe and effective treatment of cancer and other diseases for hundreds of thousands of people each year," says AAPM President Michael Herman, Ph.D., a co-organizer of the meeting. "The purpose of this gathering is to ask, as a profession, how we are going to continue to move forward and create the safest environment for patients."

"Our highest priority has always been ensuring patients receive the safest, most effective treatments. However, even one error is too many and I hope this meeting will help us make radiation therapy even safer," says ASTRO Board Chairman Tim R. Williams, M.D. "It is frightening to receive the diagnosis of cancer, and completing treatment successfully should be the primary concern of cancer patients and their families. They need to know that their treatments are as safe as possible, period."

The meeting will examine the process of radiation therapy from all perspectives, including those of all members of cancer treatment teams -- the radiation oncologists, medical physicists, radiation therapists, and dosimetrists who together care for and oversee the safety of the patient.

The meeting will also detail what roles the major equipment manufacturers, regulators, hospital administrators, and patient advocacy groups may play in finding new ways of improving the safe delivery of radiation in the future.

"We are bringing together world experts and team members at the point-of-care in a unique program," says William Hendee, Ph.D., a co-organizer of the meeting. "We look forward to an open, transparent discussion of everything that happens from when a patient is first diagnosed until the patient has completed treatment to look for ways to improve."

The delivery of radiation therapy has evolved into a complex, technologically-sophisticated, computer driven process over the last few decades, Hendee says. This is generally a boon for people with cancer, says Herman, because it allows doctors and treatment teams to fight cancer using sophisticated new equipment and methods that improve cure rates and reduce side effects.

At the same time, mistakes in using this complex technology, along with human errors in general, may lead to underdoses, overdoses, and misaligned exposures. While rare, the results of technical failures and human errors can harm the patient.

The management of the delivery of radiation therapy requires the careful coordination of teams of professionals who interact with the complex technology and with each other to directly provide safe and effective patient care. Away from the clinic, scientists, engineers, government regulators, and patient advocates can all play roles in improving safety as well.

The meeting in Miami brings all of these different groups to the same table. The goal will be to openly discuss and find ways to continue to improve the performance and patient safety in the radiation therapy process.

Possible solutions may include new devices, software, and other technological improvements; automatic early warning systems that recognize unintended radiation doses immediately; and process improvements that enhance safety by eliminating human error.


Safety in Radiation Therapy -- A Call to Action will be held from June 24-25 at the Hyatt Regency Miami in Miami, FL. For more information on the meeting, visit:

Speakers at the meeting will include medical physicists, radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, medical dosimetrists, and other experts from some of the North America's most prestigious hospitals. Participants will also include representatives from the major equipment manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and patient advocacy groups.

For a full list of speakers, see:


The summit is funded and hosted by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and has been endorsed by several leading societies concerned with medical radiation, including:

  • The American Association of Medical Dosimetrists;
  • The American Board of Radiology Foundation;
  • The American College of Medical Physics;
  • The American College of Radiology;
  • The American College of Radiation Oncology;
  • The American Society of Radiologic Technologists;
  • The Canadian Association of Provincial Cancer Agencies;
  • The Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine;
  • The Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists;
  • The Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors;
  • The Joint Commission;
  • The National Patient Safety Foundation;
  • PULSE (Persons United Limiting Substandards and Errors in Health Care); and
  • The Society for Radiation Oncology Administrators.


If you would like to speak with either of the leaders listed below from the sponsoring organizations about the summit, please contact Jason Bardi (at the American Institute of Physics) at 858-775-4080 (cell) or

  • Michael G. Herman, Ph.D.,
    President, American Association of Physicists in Medicine,
    Professor and Chair, Division of Medical Physics,
    Department of Radiation Oncology, Mayo Clinic

  • Tim R. Williams, M.D.,
    Chairman, American Society for Radiation Oncology
    Medical Director of the Department of Radiation Oncology,
    Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn Cancer Institute,
    Boca Raton Community Hospital


Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
American Institute of Physics

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