Milestone cancer treatment in KUTRRH cyberknife use
Kenya conducted its first operation using the ultra-modern Cyberknife technology, making a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer and benign tumours.
The inaugural digital procedure took place at the Kenyatta University Teaching Research and Referral Hospital (KUTRRH) on Wednesday and the first patient Benjamin Muthama who has a tumor located delicately beneath the eye and nose walked out of the operation room without undergoing open surgery.
Cyberknife is the first non-invasive cancer treatment technology in Kenya and the region and doctors say it is set to revolutionise treatment of the killer disease. It is also the second on the continent after Egypt acquired one earlier.
Muthama, a 28-year-old software engineer who was accompanied by his father Jonathan Mutunga, expressed his relief after safely coming out of the 30-minute treatment without having to spend extra time in a ward as is the case in conventional operations.
The patient whose tumor was non-cancerous said he has waited for the moment since 2021 and the family was even considering going to India for the treatment.
“I thank God and the Kenya government for making the treatment available here at KU Referral Hospital through this machine,” said an elated Muthama.
The treatment was carried out by a team of eight specialists led by Dr Ruth Wambui. They included oncologists, medical physicists and radiotherapists, among others.
According to the Hospital Board Chairperson Prof Olive Mugenda the occasion was not only historic but marks a huge stride in the institution’s efforts to help actualize the country’s Universal Health Care (UHC) goals.
Covered by NHIF
Mugenda who led other Board members in witnessing the historical event via a screen said the cost will be fully covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and thanked President William Ruto for supporting the initiative.
She said the Cyberknife acquired by hospital from the US at a cost of Sh700 million will be able to treat at least 10 patients in a day and so far about 100 have been booked in a waiting list.
“Accessing Cyberknife treatment has been costly for many patients from Kenya and the region given the machine was not available in Africa except in Egypt where it was also recently installed,
“The fact that NHIF will cover the cost of treatment will be of great benefit to many Kenyans. We are also engaging other insurance companies to meet the cost of treatment which is between Sh300,000 and Sh350,000,” said Prof Mugenda.
She added that the cost of treatment is a small fraction of what is charged for similar treatment in Asia, Europe and the Americas, especially those self-paying or using other insurance plans.
Dr Tracy Irura, an oncologist at KUTRRH said the precision treatment machine with up to 1 millimeter accuracy will be able to treat a minimum of 300 patients in the first year.
Abdil Jabbari, an expert from Accury USA who are the manufacturers of the Cyberknife, said Kenyans won’t have to travel outside the country for treatment and that the company will be giving support to local medics through training.
He said the Cyberknife, a robotic machine which treats from 6,000 angles, hits the tumor from different sides and is so far the best in the market.
Cyberknife treatment is an important advancement in the field of radiation therapy, offering precise and effective treatment options for a wide range of medical conditions, especially cancer while minimizing side effects and improving the overall patient experience.
The machine uses a combination of advanced imaging and robotics to deliver highly precise and targeted radiation therapy.