Monica Batchelder (second from right) and Boao Evergrande staff view BEIH’s linear accelerator, which provides radiation therapy.

Monica Batchelder (second from right) and Boao Evergrande staff view BEIH’s linear accelerator, which provides radiation therapy.

Radiation oncology depends on precision and collaboration. These qualities enable physicians, physicists and radiation therapists to target cancer cells and preserve healthy cells. Through a collaboration with a new international hospital, Brigham faculty and staff are sharing their expertise in these areas to benefit patients with breast cancer in China.

For more than two years, a Brigham team has helped plan, build and operationalize a new radiation oncology department from the ground up at the Boao Evergrande International Hospital (BEIH) in affiliation with Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Located in the Chinese province of Hainan, it’s the first hospital to be designated “in affiliation” with the Brigham. It will specialize in oncology, initially focusing on breast cancer.

The team’s hard work came to fruition in January when the first cancer patient was successfully and safely treated at BEIH, with a radiation therapist and physicist from the Brigham on-site to advise local clinicians on patient care — advancing the Brigham’s visionfor a healthier world, locally and globally. In recognition of this milestone, the project team recently received a 2018 Partners in Excellence Award for its collaborative efforts.

Partnering Globally

The project team, which included nurses, information technology experts and leadership from the Department of Radiation Oncology, overcame several challenges, including language, distance (8,000 miles) and a 13-hour time difference. While team members made trips to Boao when needed, nearly all work was done remotely through email, calls and video conferences.

“This phenomenal radiation oncology team worked day and night with our partners at BEIH to bring the most advanced technologies and approaches to care to save lives of cancer patients in China,” said Mark Davis, MD, MS, vice president of Business Development and Medical Affairs for Brigham Health International and executive director of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives (BDSI) for the Brigham. BDSI, which is spearheading the collaboration with BEIH, partnered with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to bring world-class cancer care to the new hospital.

The Brigham team worked closely with the BEIH department led by Liangfu Han, MD, PhD, chief physician for radiation oncology. “There was a real sense of collaboration with our Boao colleagues,” said Julia Wong, MD, radiation oncologist and lead physician on the project. “Every day, there was something new to figure out, but we embraced the challenge because of the opportunity we have to bring high-level cancer care to patients in this part of the country.”

Launching Breast Cancer Care

“We have very high standards of care, and we implemented the new technology in Boao in a very methodical way,” said Monica Batchelder, network director of Radiation Therapy Services, who was part of a group that spent two weeks on the ground in November to prepare for treating the first patient at BEIH. “To relay our patient-centered model of care and see it in practice on the other side of the world is very rewarding.”

A smaller team also participated in numerous “mock” case reviews with BEIH, another key aspect of training and preparation that allowed the Boao radiation oncology team to establish a detailed treatment plan.

“The biggest challenge was working with staff to improve the planning process for breast cancer treatment,” said Dan Cail, director of Network Physics Operations for Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “Technology has advanced so that we can deliver a high dose of radiation to the breast while sparing the heart and lungs, and we were able to show the Boao team how we improve the dose coverage while sparing normal anatomy.”