International Grant for Esiashvili

Improving Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

March 12, 2015

Natia Esiashvili, MD, associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, is the recipient of a $30,000 grant from the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) which will fund pediatric radiation oncology training in Slovenia this June. The program will offer a rare hands-on teaching experience for practitioners.

Esiashvili specializes in the treatment of complex pediatric cancers and hematological malignancies in adults. An expert in her field, she speaks at national and international conferences and participates in committees and working groups to develop pediatric programs in low- and middle-income countries.

We recently sat down with Dr. Esiashvili to ask questions about her grant.

Q: What is the need for radiation oncology training, and pediatric training, outside the U.S.?

There is a real shortage of radiation therapy facilities and trained practitioners in low and middle-income countries. Countries that have facilities tend to focus their resources on managing larger numbers of adult cancer cases. Even in industrialized nations, there is a lack of special training in pediatric radiation oncology.

Q: What does it take to implement an international program, and why Slovenia?

This program developed out of a partnership and close collaboration with PROS, UICC and the Slovenian National Cancer Center. These partners are dedicated to improving the quality of radiation therapy for children worldwide. PROS holds their biannual congress this June in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The general assembly voted to host a hands-on training (June 23, 2015) for members in conjunction with the congress (June 24-26.)

Q: What impact do you expect to see?

Mastering radiation therapy techniques for treating common brain, abdominal and other tumors should contribute in a major way to the outcomes of children in developing countries. A lack of expertise impacts outcomes and survival. Proper treatment techniques can reduce the risk of dose misadministration that could have a detrimental outcome for both tumor control and treatment-related toxicities for common childhood tumors, such as medulloblastoma, leukemia and nephroblastoma, and also less common but very curable tumors such as central nervous system germ cell tumors.

Q: How do international projects inform your work at Winship?

When I can collaborate on an international program, it benefits me and Winship because I have the opportunity to see the big picture of pediatric radiation oncology on a global level. It is such a specialized field that being able to work with colleagues internationally is critical to keep me informed about the latest techniques and technologies so I can take this back to my patients at Winship.