Nairobi West Hospital has successfully completed its first ever bone marrow transplant in Kenya, in what is being seen as a new dawn for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma patients in the country.
The historic procedure was made possible through a partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States.
The transplant was performed on a fifty-five-year-old female patient who had Myeloma, a condition that causes cancerous plasma cells to build up in the bone marrow.
Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that is responsible for producing antibodies.
In myeloma, the cells grow uncontrollably and crowd out the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. This can lead to a number of problems, including anemia, infection and bone damage.
The patient had undergone several rounds of chemotherapy but her condition was not responding to treatment. Her only hope was a bone marrow transplant.
Dr. Gachie explained that the process involves harvesting some immature but normal cells from the same patient and giving them back to the patient after high doses of chemotherapy have killed the cancer cells.
“This is a very delicate procedure which requires a lot of coordination and experience. We are very proud to have been able to offer this life-saving treatment to our patient, with time the patients will have normal cells.” said Dr. Gachie.
He said they will collaborate with other institutions to conduct training with their internationally recognized transplant specialists, so that more people in Kenya can benefit from this life-saving treatment.
“Our aim is also to be the leading Bone Marrow Transplant unit not only in East Africa, but across Africa,” he added.
The procedure was performed by a team of experts including Dr. Dixit, a doctor at the New Delhi cancer centre in India.
Dr Dixit said that bone marrow transplant could be used to treat Multiple Sclerosis and pediatric immunodeficiency, and that it’s a safe procedure for patients with sickle cell disease if done at a young age.
Although some patient fully recover others will need sessions of chemotherapy to prevent their cancer from returning.
The success rate of the procedure depends on the patient’s age, overall health and the type of cancer being treated.
The cost of the treatment is also a major factor, noting that the Bone Marrow Transplant process is highly specialized and delicate, Dr Gachi said that the treatment will cost between 25,000 and 35,000 dollars.
Data from the National Cancer Institute of Kenya (NCIK) indicates that cancer the 3rd leading cause of death in Kenya and is on the rise in the country with over 47,887 new cases of cancer annually and a mortality of 32,987 every year.
Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma account for about 5 percent of all cancers.
The good news is that with early detection and treatment, the survival rate for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma has increased dramatically over the last few decades.
However, in Kenya, most patients are diagnosed at a late stage when the chances of survival are very low.
This is because these conditions are not well known and there is a lack of awareness about the signs and symptoms.
There is also a lack of access to diagnosis and treatment facilities.
This is where Nairobi West Hospital is making a difference.
The hospital has a state-of-the-art cancer centre that offers comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for all types of cancer.
The centre is equipped with the latest technology and has a team of experienced specialists who offer personalized care to each patient.
The hospital also has a bone marrow transplant unit which is the first of its kind in Kenya.
This unit offers hope to patients with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma who have exhausted all other treatment options.
Although the cost of bone marrow transplant is out of reach for most Kenyans, insurance companies will hopefully start covering the cost of the procedure, making it more accessible to patients in Kenya.