ABU DHABI: News of any progress in cancer treatment, however tentative, furnishes hope. But one must realise that the greatest hope for escaping illness from cancer resides in our immediate and unwavering adoption of healthy habits, said Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the fifth International Oncology Conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Sheikh Nahayan said, “Encouraging healthy habits is a top priority of the United Arab Emirates. This is a country committed to improving the health of its population and insuring that healthcare is of the highest quality.”
He added, “I understand that immuno-therapy is now the hottest thing in cancer care. Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors can vanquish some advanced cancers by removing a chemical cloak that hides them from the immune system. I have read that former President Jimmy Carter got such a drug at age 91 for skin cancer that had spread to his brain. Thankfully, his cancer is now in remission.”
However, he warned that checkpoint inhibitors are expensive, have side effects, and work for only about one-quarter of patients — as few as five percent with colon cancer and as many as half with the skin cancer, melanoma. Sometimes the benefits are brief. And for some patients, treatment can backfire. Their cancer grows exponentially after receiving a checkpoint drug. Organised by the VPS Healthcare, the conference has attracted more than 900 delegates from various countries. Over 35 eminent cancer experts from the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India and the United Arab Emirates who will be presenting a range of scientific papers during the conference held under the theme, “Navigating Cancer Care by Early Detection and Prevention.”
Earlier, Dr. ShamsheerVayalil, Conference President and Chairman & Managing Director of VPS Healthcare, thanked Sheikh Nahayan for his continuous support for this critical healthcare initiative for the UAE. He said, “It is inspiring to see all of these experts across disciplines come together from across the globe and engage in lively dialogue about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
Dr. Yasmine Maher Ahmed, Chairperson of Scientific Committee for the conference and Medical Director of Medeor 24x7 International Hospital, Al Ain, underscored the need to increase cancer awareness so much that people should not ignore any symptoms suspicious of developing cancer. The patient should approach the medical institute immediately so that he gets early diagnosis and the necessary treatment.
She pointed out that the UAE has achieved tremendous improvements in terms of early diagnosis. “For cancer treatments, we have all the modern facilities at big institutes like the Tawam Hospital and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).”