With just four hours to access patient information and create and submit the best possible radiation treatment plan, all the while receiving live feedback, the pressure was on for the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse radiation oncology team.
A six-person multidisciplinary team from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse competed against radiation oncology specialists from over thirty different countries in real time in the 2018 ProKnow World Championships of Treatment Planning.
The team received a CT scan of a gynaecological cancer case at 8am on Friday 2nd March and had until 12 noon to come up with the best possible treatment plan for the patient. This was a realistic timeframe as the team is used to turning around a treatment plan in a short space of time.
Radiation treatment planning is the process used to plan the appropriate dose and delivery of radiation to a patient.
Assistant director of radiation therapy Lyndal Delaney says, “The room was abuzz with energy. We were each working on separate screens to test different approaches in a bid to create the best possible plan. It was really collaborative, we were all calling out the scores we were getting and which treatment options were working and which weren’t.”
Each team member had a different method for approaching the problem which was evidence of the diverse range of experience across the team and the many ways in which plans can be created. The Lifehouse team was able to call upon the expertise of dedicated physicist Elizabeth Claridge which allowed them to enter the competition part of the challenge, something which required oversight by a physicist.
At the end of the four hours the level of radiation was measured to ensure it would be safe to deliver to a real patient. The team ranked in the top 40 per cent of participants with a score of 128.99 out of a possible 150.
Radiation therapist Nonga Fangupo says, “Having live feedback on the different treatment methods we were coming up with was a great way to test and improve as we went. We all came away with a fresh appreciation of the benefits of teamwork. And now we’re using what we learnt to improve how we treat real patients in real life.”
Nonga says, “The support we received from our radiation oncology colleagues was amazing. We had people covering us on the machines and bringing us food and coffee to make sure we could compete without any disruptions. It was a real team effort!”
“I’d encourage everyone to seize the opportunity to take part in something like this, we got so much out of it and had tons of fun while we were at it.”
The competitors are now applying what they learnt to improve treatment planning methods in the department and they can’t wait for next year to do it all over again!