Breakthrough cancer gene treatment for 11-year-old leukaemia patient in Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre has manufactured the UAE's first supercharged immune Car-T cells to target and fight cancer

Leukaemia patient Murad, 11, has been given revolutionary gene treatment at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre. Wam
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A young leukaemia patient has been injected with the UAE’s first Car-T cells or supercharged genetically modified cells to fight cancer, doctors have said.

Murad, 11, was diagnosed with leukaemia more than five years ago and had been in remission but the disease returned six months ago.

He underwent chemotherapy but did not respond to the treatment. The doctors recommended the revolutionary Car-T cell therapy as his only option.

The child received the breakthrough therapy at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre, which has successfully manufactured the country’s first Car-T cells.

It involved helping the patient’s immune system to target and fight the cancer and is designed for patients whose cancer has returned.

During the procedure, doctors remove a type of immune system cell called the T-cell from the patient’s blood. These cells are genetically modified, strengthened in the laboratory and then injected back intravenously into the patient where the cells continue to multiply.

The treatment took five weeks during which Murad was admitted to the centre.

Cancer heroes

Murad is now in good health and back home with his family.

Majid, Murad’s father, said the family did not hesitate when the treatment was offered to their eldest child.

“We were devastated when Murad was diagnosed again with leukaemia after almost five years of remission,” said Majid.

“We are truly lucky that this very advanced breakthrough became available at this time when Murad needed it.

“A word of thanks is not enough to the whole team at ADSCC who helped Murad come back home.

“We wish all children good health and for those fighting cancer you are true heroes.”

The team at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre with Murad after he received the breakthrough cancer treatment. Wam

Hope for patients

Dr Yendry Ventura, chief executive of ADSCC, said there was a pressing need to make Car-T cells available in the UAE.

“We’re truly thrilled to see Murad doing well,” he said.

“Our success in creating Car-T therapy right here in Abu Dhabi marks a momentous leap in our commitment to making a profound impact on a regional level.

“This achievement not only brings hope to countless patients but also strengthens our position as pioneers in cutting-edge medical innovation, right here in the heart of the UAE.”

The centre aims to revolutionise cancer treatment by using cell therapy so genetically modified immune cells can be used to target tumours in patients with specific blood cancer.

“Bringing in such advancements, providing unparalleled care to complex cases, conducting clinical trials and research will help elevate the healthcare sector and serve humanity tackling prevalent diseases and health problems,” Dr Ventura said.

The centre is a Pure Health subsidiary and the procedure involved the manufacture of the Car-T at ADSCC’s Good Manufacturing Practices laboratories.

Proud moment

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved some Car-T cell therapies to treat blood cancers but due to the sensitivity of manufacturing, access was limited for cancer patients in the Middle East.

Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, executive director of Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant Programme at ADSCC, said researchers, scientists and physicians at the centre had devoted the past year to prepare for the launch of the cutting-edge therapy.

“With Murad’s condition not responding to chemotherapy, our haematologists and scientists worked closely with Murad’s treating physicians at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City for a smooth transfer to ADSCC to receive Car-T cell therapy, the only effective treatment for his condition,” she said.

“It is a proud moment for us all as we see Murad returning back to his home and family. The launch of such an advanced technology in the country solidifies the UAE’s position as a global destination for medical advancement.”

Dr Noura Khamis Al Ghaithi, undersecretary of the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi, said continuous research has helped to improve the health of the community and ensure the emirate was a leading healthcare destination.

Updated: September 19, 2023, 12:09 PM