Wellness & Fitness

Kenya gets Sh62m for liver cancer project in North Rift


Kenya will soon start conducting delicate liver cancer surgeries at the Moi Referral and Teaching Hospital (MTRH) after three counties in North Rift were selected for research and training for the disease that is causing many deaths in the region.

France is funding a liver cancer project to the tune of Sh62 million while Peru will train Kenyan specialists. MTRH will receive specialised cancer surgical treatment equipment, while surgeons, clinicians and technicians will be training locally, in Peru, and Paris.

Every year about 920 Kenyans are diagnosed with liver cancer and 850 die from the disease, according to the latest World Health Organisation data. It comes up at number nine of the worst killer cancers, due to delay in diagnosis and lack of specialists to treat the menace.

Dr Fatma Some, a specialist physician at Moi University said studies done have shown that “a bulk of our patients come from Uasin Gishu, Baringo, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.”

“They have a high prevalence of hepatitis B and have occasionally had outbreaks. We shall now work with these counties to identify patients and develop a referral system. We also have patients coming to MTRH from other counties in the country who will be included,” she said.

The two-year project will focus on Baringo, Uasin Gishu, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties, code-named Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) in Western Kenya, due to the prevalence of the disease in these regions. The medical personnel will be trained in identifying risk factors and making early diagnoses of liver cancer.

Dr Some said Peru has identified an innovative way of handling huge tumors in advanced-stage liver cancer, a surgery that has been avoided here in Kenya due to the delicate nature of the organ, the risks involved with the surgery and lack of equipment.

“The liver has a lot of blood supply so the surgery is very delicate. It needs specialised equipment which we’ll be able to acquire through this project. The Peruvian surgeons will do technology transfer by training our surgeons on this technique that they are using to successfully excise huge tumors,” she said during signing of the grant agreement between the Embassy of France and other stakeholders, on Wednesday last week.

“We will have two surgeons trained in Peru, followed by further training of the surgical team and theatre staff on the ground by the Peruvian surgical team on a return visit. Two laboratory technicians will visit the renowned Institut Pasteur in Paris for further training in advanced laboratory techniques,” she said.

Physicians, oncologists, pathologists and radiologists are drawn from both Moi University and MTRH, which also partner with researchers from France.

According to the Deputy-Head of Cooperation and attaché for Science and Higher Education at the Embassy of France in Kenya, Dr Mathieu Guérin, the project will equip healthcare professionals with clinical skills to make early diagnoses of chronic liver diseases.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs will fund the installation of novel laboratory equipment meant to improve surveillance and diagnostic capacities for chronic liver diseases at MTRH where the project will be based.

The Institute Pasteur and the Peruvian National Cancer Institute (INEN) will offer the training.

If the project is successful in taming deaths of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), it will be replicated in other counties.

“The idea is to develop a kind of model that can be replicated in other counties and for this, we will ask that KEMRI evaluate the project so we can see what worked, what did not work, and then after that, it will be up to the Ministry of Health to decide whether or not they want to enhance it to the rest of the country,” said Dr Guerin.

In Kenya, more than 60 percent of liver cancer in Kenya is associated with hepatitis B (HBV) infection.