Muscat: The National Center for Oncology at the Royal Hospital provides the latest treatments in oncology through its various departments under the supervision of a specialised medical staff, and provides integrated care for cancer patients in the Sultanate of Oman, for which it has obtained international accreditations.
The centre witnessed a quantitative expansion and qualitative development in the use of treatments through many clinics, including specialised clinics for children in oncology and haematology, a joint clinic for treating breast cancer, a clinic for treating colorectal cancer, a clinic for treating urinary system, a joint specialized clinic for treating ear, nose and throat cancers at Al Nahda Hospital, and a gynaecology clinic in radiation, a lung cancer clinic and another for haematology.
The centre provides its specialised services according to the latest treatments available in genetic or cellular oncology and targeted and immunotherapy treatments, including immunotherapy to treat children with neuroblastoma, which is one of the most common malignant tumours in children under the age of 5 years. This treatment is one of the advanced treatments that raise recovery rates to more than 40 per cent above the internationally approved cure rates.
Among the most prominent positive indicators is the centre’s ability to receive a newly diagnosed patient on the same day from all governorates of the Sultanate of Oman, as the average life expectancy of patients has reached advanced stages in some types of cancer thanks to the treatment and modern medical technologies available.
The National Center for Oncology at the Royal Hospital is an integrated centre providing all types of treatment for cancerous tumours by providing chemotherapy and immunotherapy directed through the latest scientific findings of modern genetic medicines.
Statistics issued by the centre indicate that the total number of visitors to the centre during the past year until August amounted to 140,373 patients, distributed among the centre’s various departments. The total number of visitors during this period to the clinical haematology department reached 20,760, and in the adult oncology department, it reached 13,157. In the Department of Pediatric Hematology, it reached 41,657, and in the Department of Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy, 25,760.
The Center's Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Department receives children under the age of 13, and thus it is the only department in the Sultanate of Oman that specializes in treating solid somatic tumours (children's category), which are musculoskeletal tumours, abdominal tumours, lymphomas, and nervous system tumours. As for cancer and benign and acquired blood diseases, it is treated in mutual coordination with Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.
The total number of patients received by the centre last year reached 142 children with various cancerous tumours in a year, with brain cancer representing the highest percentage, at 28 per cent, with 40 patients, followed by leukaemia, at 21 per cent, with 30 patients, and then the rest of the tumours.
The centre's pediatric haematology and oncology department is equipped with the latest devices and equipment and has a capacity of up to 24 beds. It receives from 6 to 8 children in one day. The total average number of hospitalized patients is 30, including those in intensive care. It has a specialized medical staff a highly skilled nursing staff, and doctors on duty around the clock. The Pediatric Outpatient Department includes 3 daily clinics that receive children with leukaemia, brain diseases, sarcoma, and neuroblastoma, with a distinguished medical team of consultant doctors, specialists, and nursing staff.
The Adult Oncology Department provides service around the clock with a distinguished medical team of specialized doctors and qualified nursing staff. Its capacity is 24 beds, 6 of which are for daily care in the ward, 4 for private rooms, and 12 beds for daily care. The ward receives from one to 12 patients on a daily basis. The daily clinic receives patients for short doses from 7:30 until 2:30, and it includes 12 beds, including 6 for men and 6 for women.
The centre’s adult clinical haematology department operates with a capacity of 12 beds, in addition to 4 beds in isolation rooms. The average patient receives 2-3 patients in the emergency department.
The centre's radiation therapy department provides several services, including in specialized clinics equipped with the latest medical devices and equipment, while radiation therapy patients are placed under medical observation when they need to be admitted. Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment by uses intense energy beams to eliminate cancer cells.
Among the achievements that the center has achieved is its obtaining many international and global accreditations since its opening in 2004, including the European UICC accreditation and it's joining the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where the national centre has been accredited as an integrated centre for providing treatment and palliative care for cancer patients since 2013. The centre was re-accredited again by the European Society for Oncology (ESMO) between 2020-2025 for the coming period after meeting all the requirements of the European Society for Oncology, including the accession of palliative care to the centre.
In terms of international participation, the centre is a member of the International Children’s Cancer Society and the SIOB Children’s Cancer Society and was recently chosen to be a participating member of the largest American hospital, St. Jude, where joint plans are developed in the treatment of children’s cancers to achieve the highest levels of quality in the service provided (PROFILE). It is also a member of POEM Middle East for Pediatric Cancers.
The centre has activated several multi-speciality tumour boards. Where complex or rare cancer cases are discussed, and all newly diagnosed cases are discussed among oncologists and all the specialities that require their presence, such as radiologists, surgical specialities, and histology, so that an integrated treatment plan is drawn up for patients.
The Centre provides its services at international levels by adopting high-quality indicators to verify that it is following high levels of service, including providing treatment to patients diagnosed with blood diseases for adults and children in less than 48 hours from the time the referral arrives to the specialized departments, and that the waiting time for appointments for new cases does not exceed 3 weeks, as countries European and developed countries allow up to 8 weeks and sometimes 3 months to wait for hormonal treatment for breast cancer, for example.
Among the Center’s ongoing and continuing achievements, it launched radiosurgery services in the Department of Radiation Therapy at the National Radiation Center in 2020, which relies on stereotactic radiosurgery and 3D imaging to direct high doses of radiation to the affected area with minimal impact on the surrounding healthy tissue, in addition to the expansion of the marrow transplant unit.
The centre treats rare cancer cases such as heart cancer, where radiation therapy for heart cancer is provided using the latest technologies in the field of radiation. It is rare for the heart to be exposed to radiation, with the patient being able to tolerate treatment for 6 weeks without health problems. A research paper in this regard was published in the journal British Cambridge for the rarity of the event.
The Center always seeks to find out the latest developments in the treatment of malignant tumors, and has organized annually since 2009 the Muscat Oncology Conference with international and global participation, the most recent of which was the conference held in March of this year. It also organizes ongoing workshops to keep pace with any changes and new scientific discoveries and participates in research and working papers. They are published in international scientific forums.
As is known, health care costs are constantly rising due to the expansion of specialized health services and modern technologies and the rise in drug prices to keep pace with the needs of various medical conditions, such as oncology and cancer medications and newly approved medications, which are expensive medications with limited resources and for which no other therapeutic alternatives are available. With the development of treatment and modern technologies, cancer patients today enjoy better chances of survival and better health.
This development is accompanied by a continuous escalation in healthcare costs, and this poses a challenge to the health system. Sometimes a medical drug or new technology can deplete the budget allocated to medicines, for example, the cost of 7 medicines. The amount of immunotherapy increased by 25 per cent within one year, and the cost of one dose jumped from OMR 630 to OMR 1,068. From this standpoint, the Ministry of Health has implemented several policies to manage drug costs.
The latest report on cancer incidence in (2019) issued by the Ministry of Health, represented by the National Cancer Registry in the Department of Non-Communicable Diseases at the General Directorate of Primary Health Care, reveals that the number of Omanis with cancer reached 2,089 cases by the end of 2019, an increase of 20.4 per cent compared to 2015 (1,735 cases). At a rate of 78.7 per 100,000 population. The report indicates that the cases of women reached (1,158 cases) more than the cases of men (931 cases) and that colorectal cancer represents the largest percentage among males (13.3 per cent), followed by prostate cancer (12.1 per cent), then stomach cancer (6.9 per cent), while Breast cancer is the most common among females at 29.2 per cent, followed by thyroid cancer at 16.0 per cent, while colorectal cancer represents 7.7 percent.