UAE physician identifies a unique subtype of colon cancer

A UAE local consultant, physician, and researcher, Dr. Humaid Al Shamsi, and Assistant Professor at MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas, in Houston, Texas - a world renowned and leading centre in cancer research and clinical care - was the primary investigator in a scientific discovery which has identified a new, rare and unique subtype of colon cancer.

A scientific research paper announcing the latest discoveries in clinical cancer research will be published soon in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study is based on the assessment and evaluation of genetic mutations in more than 9,600 patients with colon cancer in the USA.

Dr. Al Shamsi said that the discovery is the yield of collaboration between the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalised Cancer Therapy, housed within the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalised Cancer Care, the MD Anderson Cancer Centre and the Mayo Clinic, as well as research support from the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation in Abu Dhabi.

The results of the research reports a new and rare subtype of colon cancer, found in 2.2% of colon cancer patients, that harbors a newly identified mutation called the ‘Non V600 BRAF mutation’. The research team showed that it has a clinical implication of very slow tumor growth. "This improves survival in patients with advanced colon cancer," Dr. Al Shamsi said.

"The average survival of patients with advanced colon cancer is 2–3 years, whereas patients with this unique genetic mutation can live on average for 5–6 years and up to 8 years in some cases. The technology used to analyse these tumor samples is a new and enhanced technology known as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), which can screen and identify thousands of genes using a very fast and cost-effective method," he added.

The importance of the identification of this rare subtype is to help treating physicians to select the best treatment options given the long survival of this subtype of cancer, which can improve their survival further. Dr. Al Shamsi added, "We recognised 22 subtypes of this unique mutation, and many of these were identified and described for the first time."

Dr. Al Shamsi is the first physician in the UAE to specialise in gastro-intestinal cancer. He holds triple board certification from the American, Canadian, and British specialty boards in medical oncology, which are the highest qualifications in the field.

He is sponsored by the Khalifa Foundation as part of the ‘Khalifa Fellowship Programme’ that helps physicians with exceptional training and qualifications to further enhance their experience at world-renowned centres to advance care across the globe.

The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalised Cancer Therapy, which was inaugurated in April 2016, supports and advances personalised cancer research and rapidly implements expanded molecular pathology laboratories, technology, instrumentation, and infrastructure for personalised clinical trials.

The Zayed Building also houses the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalised Cancer Therapy and the Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

The building was made possible through a transformative grant of US$150 million - the largest gift to date in the institution’s history - given by the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation to MD Anderson to accelerate the pace of personalised cancer therapies and pancreatic cancer research. Active in 75 countries outside the UAE, the foundation supports health care, education and poverty initiatives as well as innovative biomedical research.

Dr. Al Shamsi acknowledged and thanked Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Chairman of the Khalifa Foundation. He also thanked the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalised Cancer Therapy and the Khalifa Foundation for their research support and for the Khalifa Fellowship programme.

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