Fundraiser for radiation robot raises the bar and hopes
KARACHI: The who’s who of the corporate and health sector enjoyed a qawwali night with Amjad Sabri to celebrate CyberKnife, a robot that works with radiation to get to hard-to-reach tumours. Sabri donated his fee to the charity.
CyberKnife is a whole body Stereotactic Radio Surgery robot which uses 1,200 pencil-thin beams to deliver radiation with sub-millimeter accuracy. It enables treatment of deep lesions which were previously considered to be too difficult to treat and can also ablate tumours while minimizing the damage to healthy tissue from radiation.
The Patients Aid Foundation (PAF) has imported CyberKnife to Pakistan with the aim to provide free treatment to the poor. Many people among Amjad Sabri’s audience were those who had made the venture possible with their efforts.
Mushtaq Chhapra, the chairman of PAF’s executive committee, announced that the system, which was imported to Pakistan in January, is ready and will begin functioning from the second half of September. “It isn’t less than a miracle that we have achieved our dream,” said Chhapra, thanking his supporters who were enjoying drinks and dinner in the lavish setting.
Right now CyberKnife is on a test trial, as teams from Pakistan go to Italy and France for training. “We are inviting experts from across the world to measure its accuracy and functioning,” said Chhapra. “When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, he or she is concerned about the side effects, complications, and the time and money spent on treatment,” according to Dr Tariq Mahmood, the chief of radiology at Jinnah hospital. “Not only will CyberKnife be free but it also has medical advantages.” Mahmood is also the acting director of the project.
He said that at first brain and spine tumours will be treated using the robot. As the doctors gain more experience they will move on to treat other tumours. A technical advisory board, which has consultants from Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust, Aga Khan University Hospital, Jinnah and Civil hospitals and foreign consultants, will prepare the standard operating procedures.
It is the first such machine in Pakistan and the first one in the world which will be used to provide free treatment. “It is estimated that currently there are about 20,000 people in Pakistan who require this treatment every year,” he said. “But only around 250 can travel abroad and actually get it.”
To sustain the facility, at least 1,000 members are needed who can contribute around $1,000 every year, said Mahmood. The facility aims to treat 1,000 patients per year and will function for 18 hours a day.