eCancer Consult, May 2013

Cancer Answer Line: 866.223.8100

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Telemedicine Program Aims To Optimize Radiation Oncology Outcomes Internationally

Innovative program enhances radiation oncology residents' global health education

A new telemedicine program is bringing collaboration and international expertise to people fighting cancer across Africa while providing innovative global health training for Cleveland Clinic residents.

The African Radiation Oncology Network (AfroNET) program strives to overcome inequalities in access to radiation therapy care and equipment across Africa’s varied geography and national borders. During the first two telemedicine collaborations in February and March 2013, clinicians from Cleveland Clinic, Canada and Africa successfully came together online to confer on complicated cases. This successful approach is the vision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Vienna, Austria.

“This is an exciting collaborative effort that has far-reaching benefits for all involved,” says May Abdel-Wahab, MD, PhD, Section Head of Gastrointestinal Radiation Oncology at Cleveland Clinic. “We share cases, scans, patient histories and discuss ways to treat the patient.”

Dr. Abdel-Wahab is a consultant on the project, and was a speaker at the IAEA meeting that launched the initiative and now participates in the monthly telemedicine outreach.

“The first two collaborations generated great feedback, insight and even some lessons learned,” she says. “This is a truly international tumor board.”

Evidence-based medicine backs the specific expert recommendations that are made during the teleconference. Collaborators scrupulously protect patient confidentiality at all times; a patient code replaces names on all clinical records, scans and management plans.

Treatment centers in nine of 54 African countries participate in AfroNET: Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa (three sites), Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Radiation oncology resources vary a great deal among the different centers. Therefore, Dr. Abdel-Wahab says that reality requires the participants to be creative, flexible and innovative in their approach to each case.

“Not only do we discuss patient management, but the technical considerations for radiation therapy at the local level,” Dr. Abdel-Wahab adds.

Recognizing an invaluable educational component, Cleveland Clinic requires that radiation oncology trainees participate in the AfroNET program. “This is good experience for a radiation oncology resident,” Dr. Abdel-Wahab says. “So far they are impressed with the types of cases presented – they see a wide spectrum of cancer diagnoses, medical confounding factors and in some cases advanced stage cancers.”

Adobe® ConnectTM software facilitates the online collaboration and allows participants to see and hear each other. Dr. Abdel-Wahab says the ease of communication and the coordination among colleagues from different countries and across multiple time zones is very impressive.

The program holds a lot of potential. “There is always more to learn from challenging cases and difficult scenarios.” In the future, radiation oncology subspecialists at Cleveland Clinic and elsewhere may be called upon to share expertise on specific cancer types. In addition, the unique expertise that African colleagues bring in terms of interesting patient cases and alternative treatment approaches is valuable to the resident global health experience.

The IAEA is not only assessing the radiation oncology capabilities in centers worldwide (Egypt and South Africa, for example, already feature advanced training, treatments and equipment), but devising solutions to aid clinicians and patients where the need remains greatest. Future plans include providing expertise and training to developing programs and adding radiotherapy machines and brachytherapy devices and aid in establishing new centers.

The AfroNET project is initially slated to last three years. A database will be maintained and outcomes formally evaluated to determine the project’s effectiveness.

For more information, contact Dr. May Abdel-Wahab at 216.445.7930 or

There’s A Cleveland Clinic App For That

Connect more patients to cutting-edge treatment opportunities at Cleveland Clinic with a new app that helps physicians and patients find cancer clinical trials. Less than 5 percent of adult cancer patients sign up for a clinical trial, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). And, most patients don’t realize clinical trials are an option for their care. Cleveland Clinic’s app will help physicians connect more patients to cancer clinical trials that can improve patient outcomes and help move cancer research forward.

“Making clinical trials accessible offers patients important treatment options,” says Brian Rini, MD, a staff member in Solid Tumor Oncology. “This app is one more way for doctors to know what trials are available, in real time.”

The free app allows users to search Cleveland Clinic’s 130 active clinical trials in realtime by disease, phase, hospital location or doctor. The app neatly packages clinical trial information in an easy-to-read format, including details about trial protocols, what stage trials are in, potential benefits and drawbacks, and basic eligibility criteria. It is available from the iOS AppStore and Google Play store.

Physicians can use the app as a patient information tool, encouraging patients and their families to download it. Aside from clinical trial details, the app provides financial services information, support group contacts and treatment guides—plus it connects patients to Cleveland Clinic’s Cancer Answer line. “Engaged patients are already conducting their own research online, so the app will make information about cancer clinical trials more accessible in an easy-to-read format,” Dr. Rini says.

Physicians can use the app to stay on top of the latest cancer clinical trials so they can initiate discussions with patients about these opportunities. “This app is just one more tool to empower patients. As they face healthcare decisions, and it will do a great service in helping physicians better communicate cancer clinical trials information with patients and their families,” Dr. Rini says.

Taussig Cancer Institute Clinical Trials

Cancer Answers & Appointments

Speak with a cancer nurse specialist for appointment assistance and for answers to your questions about cancer locally at 216.444.7923 or toll-free 1.866.223.8100.

Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (ET).


Resources for medical professionals

  • Outpatient appointment referrals: 216.444.7923 or 866.223.8100
  • Inpatient hospital transfers: 800.553.5056
  • Referring Physician Concierge: 216.444.6196 or 216.312.4910.

Clinical Trials

Search available cancer clinical trials by disease, hospital, phase or number.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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