Cambodia is a Southeast Asian low-middle-income country with a population of >15 million. In 2020, Cambodia was estimated to have 18,375 new diagnoses of cancer and 12,638 deaths attributable to cancer. Cambodia was estimated to have a deficit of 16 megavoltage machines in 2012. Cambodia’s radiation therapy services have suffered through the tumultuous events of the country’s history, with intermittent services until the last decade. In recent years, Cambodia has undergone rapid economic growth and, with this, the development of its first comprehensive cancer center, the National Cancer Centre (NCC).
Planning for NCC began in the early 2000s, with the aim to provide comprehensive care, including modern radiation therapy services, to the public. Funding for the center was supplied primarily by the Cambodian government, assisted by donations from partners including the International Atomic Energy Agency. Training collaborations were formed with international partners, including the Asia-Pacific Radiation Oncology Special Interest Group (APROSIG) of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists and the Asia-Pacific Special Interest Group (APSIG) of the Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine.
The main model of APROSIG/APSIG collaboration has been in-country training, including the posting of an Australian medical physicist and radiation therapist in Phnom Penh for a year’s duration to oversee a safe and sustainable start to the radiation therapy program. The first linear accelerator patient was treated at NCC in March 2018 and the first brachytherapy patient in September 2018. Since that time, the department has treated to capacity, with very little machine downtime. NCC provides comprehensive cancer services including medical oncology, pediatric oncology, hematology, palliative care, surgical oncology, and nuclear medicine. Several challenges to expanding radiation therapy services currently exist, including human resources and cultural stigma.
Despite many decades of tragedy and suffering, Cambodia serves as an example of successful implementation of modern radiation therapy in a low- and middle-income country. The keys to success have included local champions, support of the Ministry of Health, and willingness to embrace collaboration. The pandemic brings yet another challenge to cancer control in Cambodia, and novel training platforms are being explored.

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