ISLAMABAD: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has designated Pakistan’s Nuclear Medicine, Oncology and Radiotherapy Institute (NORI) as an ‘anchor centre’ under its ‘Rays of Hope Initiative’ to help enhance the country’s capabilities in cancer research.
NORI, one of the 19 cancer hospitals run by PAEC, established in 1983 in Islamabad, is the only fully fledged tertiary care cancer hospital, specifically designed for diagnosing and treating cancer patients, equipped with the latest equipment, including cyberknife.
The ‘anchor centre’ agreement was signed by Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr Raja Ali Raza Anwar and IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi in Vienna on Tuesday on the sidelines of the annual general conference of IAEA currently progressing in the Austrian capital.
Anchor centres are cancer centres which have shown resilience through decades of experience working with the IAEA to support their respective region, according to the IAEA. Vienna is one of the four headquarters of UN along with New York, Geneva and Nairobi.
PAEC says 19 hospitals vital in provision of treatment to over 80pc cancer patients
Anchor centres are designated cancer treatment facilities which work with the IAEA to support and provide relevant expertise in the respective region. These centres are part of the IAEA’s Rays of Hope (RoH) initiative, which aims to assist member states in establishing or expanding their capacities in radiotherapy and multimodality medical imaging.
Moreover, the designated anchor centres will train fellows, organise training courses for healthcare providers, participate in IAEA coordinated research projects, promote networking, and provide experts and mentorship to other radiotherapy and medical imaging centres in their region.
Along with Pakistan, anchor centre agreements with cancer institutes of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Turkiye were also signed during the ceremony.
Within the health sector in Pakistan, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has used nuclear and other advanced techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of cancerous and allied diseases. It is actively involved in the national cancer awareness, prevention, and diagnosis and treatment programme.
Meanwhile, PAEC Chairman Dr Raja Ali Raza Anwar while making Pakistan’s ‘national statement’ at the annual general conference, said that Pakistan “accords the highest priority to nuclear safety and security as a national responsibility”.
Pakistan is a party to several leading international instruments relevant to nuclear safety and security, and has put in place a comprehensive, robust and rigorously enforced nuclear safety and security regime in accordance with the highest international standards.
Dr Ali Raza informed the conference that Pakistan has decades-long experience of operating safe, secure and fully safeguarded nuclear power programme. Currently, the country has six operational nuclear power plants with an aggregate capacity of 3,530MW.
“It remains our ambition to further increase the share of nuclear power in the national energy mix. In this regard, work has begun on the construction of another nuclear power plant - Chashma Unit 5 – with 1200MW capacity,” he said.
PAEC chairman said despite being an energy-deficient country, which accounts for less than one per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change.
“We believe that nuclear power has an indispensable role to play in mitigating and adapting to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon energy future.” Pakistan fully shares the view that nuclear power is an affordable, reliable and clean source of energy and a part of the solution to the climate crisis, he added.
PAEC cancer hospitals
A total of 19 cancer hospitals, run by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, are playing a vital role in providing quality treatment to over 80 per cent of the country’s cancer patients, he said.
The PAEC chief said Pakistan has been a significant beneficiary of IAEA’s assistance and is effectively utilising nuclear science and technology in diverse areas, including human health, food and agriculture, power generation, industry, and environmental protection.
Pakistan remains committed to further enhancing its mutually beneficial cooperation with the IAEA, and the country has been one of the leading partners of the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme and has significantly benefitted from it.
He said that Pakistan has aligned its technical cooperation programme with the agency’s mid-term strategy in designing and implementing comprehensive projects to achieve substantial results. Pakistan remains ready to share its experience of designing and implementing comprehensive TC projects with other fellow developing member states, he said.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023