Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital (KUTRRH) on Wednesday 27th September 2023 commenced CyberKnife services by treating its first patient.  

The journey to acquire the cyberknife started in the year 2022. The vision was to create a Centre of Excellence in oncology by providing end to end diagnosis and treatment options of cancer at KUTRRH. On the diagnostic side the hospital was able to acquire the much-needed PET-CT and SPECT-CT services. While the hospital has the LINAC and brachytherapy machines for treatment of cancerous tumors, there was need to move in to high precision treatment and hence the government support to acquire the cyberknife machine which was a bold but best decision for Kenya in the effort to decrease outbound medical tourism and increase inbound medical tourism. 

The commencement of CyberKnife treatment services comes after an intense and much awaited completion of the commissioning process after the launch of the CyberKnife Centre by His Excellency President William Ruto. The commissioning has been a tedious and very delicate process jointly undertaken by medical physicists from Accuray, the manufacturer of the equipment and  medical physicists, doctors, radiotherapists, and oncologists from KUTRRH. This process which took five months after the launch by the President included dry run, and the collection of very delicate data to ensure that the machine processes were accurate and ready to deliver precise and successful treatment to our patients. The commencement 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.

The experts who were involved in todays cyberknife treatment include: 

  • Abdil Jabbari -Application specialist and Medical physicist from Accurray USA.
  • Ruth Wambui - A radiation Therapist and Cyberknife Centre Manager from KUTRRH with many years’ of experiences with Cyberknife operations in the UK.
  • Peter Loreh- A medical physicist and Radiotherapy Head of Department at KUTRRH. One of the few trained Medical physicists in the country with experience in stereotactic Radio Surgery.
  • Dr Tracy Irura- A trained Radiation Oncologist at KUTRRH and the lead oncologist in Cyberknife.
  • Dr. Shridhar -A radiation oncologist at HCG INDIA with many years experience in Cyberknife and has delivered over 4000 Cyberknife treatment.

The patients have been carefully selected to ensure that they meet the set criteria by the experts. They have been well briefed about the treatment and what to expect and are psychologically ready for this unique precision treatment. KUTRRH Board and Management are grateful to the Government for availing the funds to acquire this first of its kind equipment which gives the patient the best chance of overcoming the disease challenge.

Importance of CyberKnife Treatment

  1. Precision: CyberKnife uses a combination of advanced imaging and robotics to deliver highly precise and targeted radiation therapy. It can track the movement of tumors in real-time, adjusting the radiation beams accordingly. This precision is crucial in treating tumors located near critical structures or in delicate areas of the body. 
  2. Non-Invasive: Unlike traditional surgery, CyberKnife is a non-invasive treatment option. It does not require incisions or anesthesia, which leads to quicker recovery times and fewer complications for patients. 
  3. Reduced Side Effects: The precise targeting of radiation with CyberKnife helps minimize 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. 
  4. Fewer radiation sessions: The cyberknife treatment is delivered in 3 to 6 outpatient sessions compared to traditional radiation therapy which requires 20 to 30 sessions to complete treatment. 
  5. Treatment of Inoperable Tumors: CyberKnife can be used to treat tumors that are considered inoperable due to their location or the patient’s health. This provides new treatment options for patients who may not have had other viable choices. 
  6. Improved Outcomes: The precision and accuracy of CyberKnife treatment can lead to better treatment outcomes, including higher rates of tumor control and increased survival rates for some cancers.

Conditions treated with a CyberKnife

CyberKnife treatment is recommended for various conditions including both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. Its precise tumor treatment capacity to sub-millimeter accuracy levels make treatment preferred using CyberKnife for the following conditions among others. 

  1. Cancer: CyberKnife is commonly used for the treatment of cancerous tumors including: Prostate Cancer, Lung Cancer, brain Tumors, Spine Tumors, Liver Cancer among others. 
  2. Treatment of non-cancerous conditions including Trigeminal Neuralgia.  
  3. Treatment Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs) which are abnormal tangles of blood vessels and Acoustic Neuromas which are benign tumors on the acoustic nerve. These benign tumors are responsible for hearing and balance. 
  4. CyberKnife treatment is also applied for pancreatic Lesions. Certain non-cancerous pancreatic lesions can be treated with CyberKnife. 
  5. Functional Disorders: CyberKnife can also be used to treat certain functional disorders, such as epilepsy, by targeting specific brain areas responsible for seizures. 
  6. Radiosurgery: CyberKnife can be used for stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which are highly focused and precise forms of radiation therapy used for various conditions. 

About the Cyberknife

An advancement in the field of radiation therapy

CyberKnife treatment offers precise and effective treatment options for a wide range of medical conditions, especially cancer, while minimizing side effects and improving the overall patient experience.

Who Qualifies for Cyberknife Treatment

It’s important to note that the specific conditions and patients eligible for CyberKnife treatment may vary from case to case. Treatment decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, considering factors like the type and location of the tumor, the patient’s overall health, and the potential benefits of CyberKnife treatment. We advise oncologists to liaise with our medical team here at the hospital to discuss eligibility of their patients so that they are booked accordingly. 

Contribution To UHC

The acquisition of the machine and the commencement of the treatment supports the government’s efforts for universal healthcare in the sense that: 

  • the treatment is available to all Kenyans from different social economic backgrounds.  
  • It also supports UHC given that it is fully covered by NHIF and patients with NHIF don’t have to add any money to access the treatment. 

Treatment Cost

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 which 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 300-350 thousand Kenya shillings. 

The cost of treatment is also a small fraction of the current cost charged for similar treatment in Asia, Europe and the America especially those self-paying or using other insurance plans.

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