'Hub For Research': Nobel Laureate Praises UAE's Healthcare System For Cancer Patients


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Fri 1 Mar 2024, 7:03 PM

Nobel laureate James Allison, whose groundbreaking work has revolutionised cancer immunotherapy, expressed optimism in the UAE's health system with regard to offering new treatments.

“We are impressed with the infrastructure that is being built here in Abu Dhabi and the UAE in terms of the healthcare system, especially in terms of getting patient data for drug development and new cancer treatments such as immunotherapy and personalised genomic medicine therapies,” Prof Allison said during the 20224 edition of the Worldwide Innovative Network (WIN) symposium held outside Europe for the first time.

“We believe that cancer can be cured with the right combination of strategies, including immunotherapy. Abu Dhabi and the infrastructure here will definitely lead to some good things for cancer patients. The efforts being made to increase patient participation in clinical trials are impressive and this is going to make it a hub of biomedical research and drug development very quickly,” Prof Allison, the 2018 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, told Khaleej Times.

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He is renowned for his foundational discoveries in T cell biology that launched the field of cancer immunotherapy.

James Allison with his wife Prof. Padmanee Sharma

Marking a collaboration between the WIN Consortium and Abu Dhabi-based Burjeel Holdings, the two-day annual global congress brings together more than 500 physicians, researchers, and scientists in the field from 30 countries to explore the latest advancements in precision oncology, to improve cancer patient care and outcomes worldwide.

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and chairman of Burjeel Holdings, highlighted the Group's commitment to cancer care.

“We are committed to advancing our understanding of cancer and work towards improving patient care, not only for the current but also for future generations in the UAE and region. The only way for us to do this is through fostering an engaging dialogue between international scholars and innovators and local experts to bridge theory and real-world practice and forge lasting partnerships,” Dr Shamsheer said.

Adopting collaborative approach

Prof Allison, regental professor and chair of the department of immunology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the US, emphasised the importance of international collaboration in combating cancer.

“It's wonderful to see the spread of these conferences outside the US and Europe and to see knowledge and ideas flow freely between all these groups. This is important in extending care to more patients and bringing the science forward to cure more patients. Different kinds of cancers prevail in different countries and we all need to work together if we want to conquer the disease.”

Prof Allison's journey in cancer research began with a deeply personal experience. His mother died of lymphoma when he was about 10 years old, and shortly after, two of her brothers died of cancer. This motivated him to pursue a career in immunology and ultimately led to his groundbreaking research on T cells and their role in the immune system's ability to detect and eliminate cancer cells. His work led to the development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug to treat cancer for which he subsequently won the Nobel Prize.

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