Doctors call for UAE cancer registry

Cancer treatment will be held back until a national registry of patients is drawn up, health chiefs said yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Cancer treatment will be held back until a national registry of patients is drawn up, health chiefs said yesterday. Dr Adel Hajj, a specialist oncologist and the head of the oncology department at Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital, said current statistics did not reflect the reality of cancer in the UAE. A particular problem was not knowing which cancers affected which sections of the community, he said at a forum of the InnovHealth 2010 conference.

"If a registry is not done correctly, it will simply reflect what expatriates are bringing with them in terms of cancer profiles, which does not address the characteristics of local society," he said. Dr Adnan Kaddaha, the chairman and managing director of Cedars International, said the "transient nature" of the population made compiling a useful registry difficult. "Each demographic has its own profile for cancer, so we will still not be able to distinguish prevalent cancers that are caused by factors such as habits, culture, lifestyle, atmosphere, environment and especially genetics, of locals of the UAE," he said.

The officials agreed that the country's capacity to test for cancer-causing genes was lacking. Currently, any genetic test samples had to be sent abroad, said Dr Hajj, creating a delay that could prove fatal for a patient. "The behaviour of an inherited cancer is different from an acquired cancer, so you need to know what kind of cancer you are addressing to be able to build your therapy," he said.

Dr Pascale Hilbert, the head of molecular biology at the Institute of Pathology and Genetics in Belgium, said genetic diagnoses were needed for hereditary cancer patients to be given the best treatment. "Each tumour of each patient is unique and has its own characteristic," said Dr Hilbert. "If you want to give the right treatment, which is adapted to the patient, you need to have a report of all the characteristics of this tumour." This, she said, included the patient's genetic profile.

Dr Aly Abdelrazek, the executive director of the Gulf International Cancer Centre in the capital, said the Ministry of Health began compiling a national cancer registry three years ago, and it should be released soon. "Every hospital has its own registry but the ministry is gathering all that into one registry, which is the proper thing to do," he said. Federal law demands that each cancer diagnosis be reported to Health Authority-Abu Dhabi or the Dubai Health Authority.