Cyberknife treats patient year since launch

Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital

President William Ruto, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Health CS Susan Nakhumicha, Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi, KUTRRH Board Chair Olive Mugenda and other leaders during the commissioning of the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital Cyber-Knife Centre on April 24, 2023. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

About a year after Kenya acquired her first Cyberknife, a robotic radio-surgery system, the Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) on Thursday (September 28) used it on a patient to treat cancer for the first time.

A Cyberknife system is a robotic equipment which offers painless and non-invasive management for cancerous and non-cancerous tumours.

Apart from cancer, it can also be used in the treatment of some functional disorders, such as epilepsy, by targeting specific brain areas responsible for seizures.

Five months after President William Ruto commissioned it last October, KUTRRH had a try-out, which involved data collection, to ensure that the machine processes were accurate and ready to deliver precise and successful treatment to patients.

“The start of the treatment also marks a key milestone for Kenya, the region and Africa in general as the services are now available without having to travel outside Kenya for Kenyans or outside Africa for the regional patients,” said the hospital in a statement.

A Cyberknife system reduces the number of times patients needing radiation sessions from an average of 20 to 30 to about three to six sessions only.

“The precise targeting of radiation with CyberKnife helps minimise damage to surrounding healthy tissues. This reduction in collateral damage leads to fewer side effects, enhancing the patient's overall quality of life during and after treatment,” said the hospital, adding: “It also does not require incisions or anaesthesia, which leads to quicker recovery and fewer complications.”

While Kenya is the first country to own a Cyberknife in East and Central Africa, it’s the second in Africa after Egypt.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, KUTRRH Chair Olive Mugenda said the hospital aims to create a centre of excellence in cancer treatment by providing end-to-end diagnosis and treatment options for cancer patients.

“The commissioning of the CyberKnife system today is a major milestone for oncology management in Kenya. As part of the strategic plan, for the last few years, we have harboured the need to move into high precision treatment and, thanks to the government’s support, KUTRRH finally managed to acquire the CyberKnife machine, which is a bold but best decision for Kenya in the effort to decrease outbound medical tourism and increase inbound medical tourism,” Prof Mugenda said.

Patients who are set to undergo the CyberKnife system treatment regimen have to be carefully selected and thereafter briefed about the treatment and expectations just to have them prepare psychologically.

“Treatment decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, considering factors like the type and location of the tumour, the patient's overall health, and the potential benefits of CyberKnife treatment,” said the hospital in a statement.

Medics at KUTRRH advised oncologists in other hospitals to reach out to them regarding discussions on their patients' eligibility so that they are booked accordingly. The National Hospital Insurance Fund can cover the cost of treatment for Kenyans who are part of the insurance scheme.

“We are also engaging other insurance companies to meet the cost of treatment between Sh300,000 and Sh500,000. Treatment costs are also a small fraction of the current cost charged for similar treatment in Asia, Europe and America, especially self-paying patients or those using other insurance plans,” explained the hospital. Some of the cancers that are treated using the system include prostate, lung, and liver and brain tumours.