Derby contender raises awareness of innovative cancer treatment

Florent Geroux, Cyberknife's jockey, is thrilled with the attention and goodwill the horse’s name brings.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 1:20 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - He’s the Arkansas Derby winner and one of three Kentucky Derby contenders trained by Louisville’s Brad Cox. To many people, Cyberknife is much more than a talented 3-year-old colt, he’s the vehicle to get out the word about a life-saving treatment.

It’s not uncommon for owners of Derby contenders to give their horses names inspired by famous athletes and catchphrases. This year, one owner wanted to make sure naming his horse had awareness as the goal.

What does the name “Cyberknife” have to do with the horse? Trainer Brad Cox said he was not sure at first.

“He’s always been a talented horse,” Cox said. “We always thought he was a good colt, but obviously we didn’t know what the name meant in the beginning.”

“A radiation machine strapped onto a robot” is how UofL Health’s Dr. Neal Dunlap describes an actual Cyberknife, which is used to treat cancer. To avoid the typical side effects of radiation treatment, Dunlap explained, “It’s a unique machine able to pinpoint radiation directly to tumors, while sparing a lot of the normal tissues around a person’s body.”

When Al Gold, the owner of Cyberknife the horse, was treated for prostate cancer with the Cyberknife machine, the treatment was a major win.

“It’s exactly why we’re doing this,” Dunlap said. “We want everybody to know that it’s not a big deal. If you get cancer, you can get the Cyberknife treatment and it’s painless. Five easy treatments and you’re done with it.”

Gold invited Kentucky cancer survivors treated with Cyberknife at the UofL Health Brown Cancer Center to the backside of Churchill Downs.

Survivor Stacy McCaslin was diagnosed with lung cancer. Cyberknife allowed her to undergo fewer, less invasive procedures.

“It’s scary, very scary,” McCaslin said. “Being lung cancer, even though it was stage one, but never being a smoker, you don’t understand why and how. … I hope more doctors actually take a look at doing the (Cyberknife) treatment.”

Vivian Wilson, a lung and brain cancer patient, said she discovered the Cyberknife treatment when other cancer treatments didn’t work for her for years. Having a Derby contender named after the technology is a great gift, she said.

“The awareness of it, you know, that there is the option of Cyberknife and there is hope, you know, don’t give up hope, " Wilson said.

Gold invited a group treated with Cyberknife at the UofL Health Brown Cancer Center, including McCaslin, Wilson, and prostate cancer survivor Bennie Jones, to the backside of Churchill Downs to meet the horse with the Cyberknife namesake.

“To be this close and see the horse, it’s a fantastic experience, and it’s almost as good as the Cyberknife experience,” Jones said.

Florent Geroux, the horse’s jockey, is thrilled with the attention and goodwill the horse’s name brings.

“I’m hoping it will bring us luck,” Geroux said as all of the survivors yelled in unison, “Go Cyberknife!”

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