Breakthrough in Treating an 11-year-old Leukemia Patient in the UAE

Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center (ADSCC), a subsidiary of PureHealth, has achieved a groundbreaking milestone by successfully manufacturing the UAE’s first CAR-T Cell therapy to treat an 11-year-old boy battling aggressive leukemia. CAR-T cell therapies are considered a revolutionary advancement in the treatment of blood cancers.

The young patient, named Murad, had initially been diagnosed with leukemia over five years ago and had experienced remission. Unfortunately, the leukemia resurfaced six months ago, and traditional chemotherapy failed to yield results. At this point, CAR-T Cell Therapy emerged as the only viable treatment option.

CAR-T cell therapies involve creating cellular products (CAR-T) using the patient’s immune cells, a process carried out in ADSCC’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) laboratories, one of the few in the Middle East.

During the five-week treatment period, Murad was admitted to ADSCC, the only accredited Center of Excellence in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Abu Dhabi. Physicians extracted cells from Murad, genetically modified his immune cells in the lab to empower them to combat cancer cells, and then reintroduced them intravenously into the patient.

Notably, CAR-T Therapy had previously been the exclusive domain of foreign pharmaceutical companies and had received approval in the United States in 2017. Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the manufacturing process, its availability has been limited in the region.

Innovation and Regional Impact
Dr. Noura Khamis Al Ghaithi, Undersecretary of the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi, highlighted the UAE’s commitment to global healthcare advancement, thanks to continuous innovation and research efforts in life sciences. The Emirate’s strong governmental support, advanced infrastructure, healthcare facilities, and skilled workforce position it as a leading healthcare destination.

Dr. Yendry Ventura, CEO of ADSCC, expressed pride in the accomplishment, stating that it signifies a significant leap in the commitment to regional medical advancement. CAR-T Therapy is a remarkable development utilizing the body’s immune system to fight diseases. With UAE leadership and support, the aim is to revolutionize cancer treatment through genetically modified immune cells precisely targeting tumors.

Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi, Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant program at ADSCC, emphasized the center’s commitment to medical science advancement in the region. She mentioned that CAR-T Cell Therapy was the only effective treatment option for Murad’s condition when chemotherapy failed, marking a proud moment for UAE’s medical community.

This achievement solidifies the UAE’s position as a global destination for medical innovation and research, aligning with the vision of its wise leadership.

Your Queries Answered:

Question: What is leukemia?

Answer: Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. Leukemia cells can crowd out healthy blood cells, making it difficult for the body to function properly.

Question: What are the different types of leukemia?

Answer: There are four main types of leukemia:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

ALL and AML are fast-growing types of leukemia that typically affect children and young adults. CLL and CML are slow-growing types of leukemia that typically affect adults.

Question: What are the symptoms of leukemia?

Answer: The symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the type of leukemia and how far it has progressed. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Question: What are the causes of leukemia?

Answer: The exact cause of leukemia is unknown. However, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the chance of developing leukemia, including:

  • Exposure to radiation
  • Certain genetic disorders
  • Smoking
  • Benzene exposure
  • Previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy

Question: What is the treatment for leukemia?

Answer: The treatment for leukemia depends on the type of leukemia, the patient’s age and overall health, and the stage of the disease. Some common treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stem cell transplant

Question: What is the prognosis for leukemia?

Answer: The prognosis for leukemia has improved significantly in recent years. Today, more than 60% of children with leukemia are cured. The prognosis for adults with leukemia depends on the type of leukemia and the stage of the disease. However, even adults with advanced leukemia can often live for many years with treatment.

Question: What are the challenges faced by leukemia patients?

Answer: Leukemia patients face a number of challenges, including:

  • Physical challenges: Leukemia can cause a variety of physical symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and easy bruising or bleeding. These symptoms can make it difficult to perform everyday activities and can lead to social isolation.
  • Emotional challenges: Leukemia is a life-threatening disease, and patients may experience a range of emotions, such as anxiety, fear, and depression. It is important for patients to have access to support services to help them cope with the emotional challenges of leukemia.
  • Financial challenges: Leukemia treatment can be expensive, and patients may have difficulty affording their medical bills. There are a number of financial assistance programs available to help leukemia patients, but it can be difficult to navigate these programs.

Question: How can I support a leukemia patient?

Answer: There are a number of ways to support a leukemia patient, including:

  • Offer practical assistance: This could include helping with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, running errands, or driving the patient to appointments.
  • Provide emotional support: Listen to the patient’s concerns, offer words of encouragement, and let them know that you are there for them.
  • Help the patient stay connected: Encourage the patient to stay in touch with friends and family, and help them find activities that they can enjoy.
  • Educate yourself about leukemia: This will help you to better understand the patient’s experience and provide them with the support they need.

Question: What are some resources available to leukemia patients and their families?

Answer: There are a number of resources available to leukemia patients and their families, including:

  • Patient support groups: These groups can provide patients and their families with emotional support and practical advice.
  • Financial assistance programs: These programs can help patients afford their medical bills.
  • Clinical trials: Clinical trials offer patients the opportunity to try new and innovative treatments for leukemia.
  • Educational resources: There are a number of educational resources available to help patients and their families learn more about leukemia and its treatment.

If you or someone you know has leukemia, please know that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you and your family cope with the challenges of this disease.

Question: What is CAR-T cell therapy? Answer: CAR-T cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy that uses a patient’s own T cells to fight cancer. T cells are a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection. CAR-T cell therapy works by genetically modifying the patient’s T cells to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). A CAR is a protein that allows the T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells.

Question: How does CAR-T cell therapy work?

Answer: CAR-T cell therapy is a complex process that involves the following steps:

  1. T cells are collected from the patient’s blood.
  2. The T cells are genetically modified to express a CAR.
  3. The modified T cells are multiplied in the laboratory.
  4. The modified T cells are infused back into the patient’s body.

Once infused into the patient’s body, the CAR-T cells will multiply and circulate throughout the bloodstream. When the CAR-T cells encounter a cancer cell, they will bind to the cancer cell and kill it.

Question: What types of cancer is CAR-T cell therapy used to treat?

Answer: CAR-T cell therapy is currently FDA-approved to treat the following types of cancer:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)
  • Follicular lymphoma (FL)
  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)

CAR-T cell therapy is also being investigated for the treatment of other types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma, chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and solid tumors.

Question: What are the side effects of CAR-T cell therapy?

Answer: CAR-T cell therapy can cause a number of side effects, including:

  • Cytokine release syndrome (CRS): CRS is a common side effect of CAR-T cell therapy that is caused by the release of large amounts of cytokines into the bloodstream. CRS can cause symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS): ICANS is a rare but serious side effect of CAR-T cell therapy that can cause neurological symptoms such as confusion, headache, seizures, and coma.
  • Low blood cell counts: CAR-T cell therapy can cause low blood cell counts, which can make the patient more susceptible to infection and bleeding.

Question: Is CAR-T cell therapy right for me?

Answer: CAR-T cell therapy is a powerful treatment for cancer, but it is not right for everyone. CAR-T cell therapy is typically used as a last resort for patients who have not responded to other treatments.

If you are considering CAR-T cell therapy, it is important to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this treatment.

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