UNC Lineberger Researcher Sha Chang Launches Startup to Improve Radiation Treatment in Developing World

February 7, 2018

A social enterprise start-up company led by a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher is looking to use technology developed in-house at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to improve radiation treatment in developing countries, which are expected to increasingly shoulder more of the global cancer burden.

“We want to enable developing countries to do more with what they already have, based on UNC’s experience,” said UNC Lineberger’s Sha Chang, professor of radiation oncology at the UNC School of Medicine and founder of the start-up EmpowerRT.

Cancer cases are rising across the globe, with cancer in low- to middle-income nations expecting to account for 61 percent of all cases by 2050, according to a study published in Nature Reviews Cancer. A study in Clinical Oncology reports that just five out of every 10 patients with cancer needing radiotherapy in low- and middle-income countries have access to treatment. And in low-income countries, less than 10 percent of patients have access.

EmpowerRT is harnessing technology developed at UNC-Chapel Hill years ago to reduce radiation treatment toxicities for patients. Researchers say this technology could be useful to clinics that rely on basic or older equipment and lack the funds, training and supporting infrastructure to implement modern intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). IMRT is effective in treating cancer with fewer side effects, but can cost millions of dollars.

“In the last 20 years, we have gone through a technological revolution,” Chang said. “We believe we can use our discoveries to help improve cancer care in clinics that have basic technology.”

Read more on the School of Medicine website.