Now, CyberKnife technology to treat cancer in India


New Delhi : Offering hope in several cases of technically inoperable tumours, the most advanced CyberKnife robotic radio surgery system will be available to cancer patients from next week at the Apollo Specialty Cancer hospital, Chennai.

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The Apollo Hospital group has installed the most-advanced version of the system in Asia-Pacific at the cancer specialty centre in Chennai.

“This technology will offer a new treatment option that would revolutionise cancer treatment in India,” Prathap C. Reddy, executive chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group, told reporters here Saturday.

The group hopes to start treating patients at the Chennai centre from next week, Reddy added.

Apart from being the only machine of its kind in South Asia, the CyberKnife is unique in its design. It offers large dosages of targeted radiation controlled with image guided technology and computer robotics.

“The advanced technology behind CyberKnife uses real time image guidance technology and computer controlled robotics to deliver an extremely precise dose of radiation to targets, thereby avoiding the surrounding healthy tissue and adjusting for patient and tumour movement during treatment,” explained John Rodenbeck Adler, professor of Neurosurgery and oncology at the Stanford University Medical Centre.

“The procedure requires no anaesthesia, as the treatment is painless and non-invasive,”said Adler, who is in India to create awareness about the machine.

The treatment has a higher rate of success with small tumours, and generally lasts between 30 to 90 minutes involving administration of 100-200 radiation beams delivered from different directions each lasting 10 to 15 seconds. The machine’s robotic arm works continually with image guided technology and has the ability to move in three dimensions according to the treatment plan.

“So unlike other treatments like the Gammaknife that has a linear plane of working, the patient need not be fitted with a frame. It has a tracking accuracy of less than a millimetre and has minimal side effects,” Adler said.

This treatment can also successfully treat lung cancers and other such cancers that are on organs that move involuntarily – like in the respiratory or digestive system.

The treatment that formally began at Stanford in 1994, has had about 60,000 beneficiaries so far, with around 98 percent success rate in dealing with benign tumours and about 95 percent in dealing with malignant tumours. It has a three percent complication risk, Adler informed.

“Largely, the treatments are out-patient procedures, allowing patients to continue their normal activities,” Adler said.

There are about 160 such CyberKnife systems across the globe, the one at Chennai is the most advanced, Adler claimed.

The machine is estimated to have cost Apollo Rs.250 million, while the entire set-up cost was Rs.750 million. It will be able to provide treatment to about 1,000 patients annually.

“We hope to keep the cost under Rs.500,000 which is still 1/4th the cost of such treatment anyplace abroad,” Reddy said.

“There is need to evolve more accessible and effective treatment to patients,” Reddy added.

According to Reddy, In India one million new cases of cancer are diagnosed every year. Currently, India contributes to 8.5 percent of the 10 million cancer cases globally. By 2010, these numbers will grow to 15 million cancer cases globally. India will contribute to 10 percent of these.