“Cancer treatment is one of the most advanced fields in the UAE”
Prof. Humaid Al Shamsi is the first doctor in the UAE specializing in oncology and gastrointestinal oncology. He is also a researcher in oncology and has the largest number of oncology studies in the UAE. After diligent work and continuous research, Professor Al Shamsi has recently published the first Emirati book on cancer research, which includes over 70 research papers, in addition to citing major international scientific journals. “Hospitals” magazine met with Professor Al Shamsi to shed light on the new book and cancer treatment development in the UAE. Below is the full interview.
This book required a lot of time and effort and is like a reference in the oncology field. We would like to highlight the importance of this book for the future generations and the future of oncology.
We thank you for shedding light on scientific research, which is slightly forgotten in our Arab region. This book features over 70 medical research that we have published since 2012 and covers research on breast, colon, pancreatic, gallbladder and rectal cancers, in addition to over 15 research papers on COVID-19 and cancer patients, as well as a lot of research including the development of the cancer industry in the UAE.
We hope that it will be a reference book for many researchers and cancer advocates in the UAE, given the featured recommendations aimed at the development of this field.
Based on your extensive and comprehensive experience in this field, how do you assess the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the UAE? How has the oncology field evolved over the past years?
Contrary to popular belief, cancer treatment is one of the most advanced fields in the country for the following reasons: The UAE pays great attention to the cancer sector as it is the third leading cause of death in the country. The UAE is home to many world-renowned medical facilities and clinics including Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, and many international doctors with world-class expertise. Moreover, the country facilitates the registration of many modern cancer medicines before they are registered in most countries of the world, as the UAE has become only the second country in the world after the United States to approve the use of a key lung cancer drug. Also, the UAE has state-of-the-art technologies such as ultra-precise radiation devices.
A new drug has been approved to treat lung cancer in the country, after its approval in the USA, and then directly in the UAE. It is a genetic therapy, benefiting 13% of patients with advanced lung cancer. The innovative drug called “LUMAKRAS” is the latest breakthrough in the world, and helps significantly in the treatment of cancer.
Over the past years, you have worked on a lot of medical research specialized in cancer diseases. Can you tell us about the most important ones?
The most important research is the discovery of a type of colorectal cancer. Research results showed a rare type of genetic mutation in 2.2% of all patients. These rare non-V600 BRAF mutations that have been identified for the first time, cause colorectal cancer to develop slowly but also have an amazing response to chemotherapy, especially in the advanced stages of the disease.
This technique, which was used to analyze the genetic mutations of samples from colorectal cancer patients, is scientifically known as Next-Generation DNA sequencing (NGS).
How did these discoveries affect the course of treatments? What are the latest treatment protocols?
Our research, in addition to the achievements of other doctors and researchers, have contributed to a transformation in treatments; modern treatments have been found to stop cancer growth and were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The latest treatment method is immunotherapy, which is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer. The immune system helps the body fight infections and other diseases. It is made up of white blood cells as well as organs and tissues of the lymphatic system. Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy.
Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to target specific genes and proteins that are involved in the growth and survival of cancer cells. Targeted therapy can affect the tissue environment that helps a cancer grow and survive, or it can target cells related to cancer growth, such as blood vessel cells.
It is sometimes called personalized medicine or personalized care. Precision medicine looks at how a specific gene change (genetic mutation) might affect a person’s risk of developing a certain cancer, or, if they already have cancer, how their genes affect treatment (or genes in their cancer cells) might affect treatment.
The focus is mainly directed towards awareness and early detection. How important is this step? How does it contribute to fighting the disease? Are there studies in this regard?
As cancer specialists, we believe that early cancer screening is the best way to reduce mortality rates. Early diagnosis of cancer focuses on detecting symptomatic patients as early as possible so they have the best chance for successful treatment. When cancer care is delayed or inaccessible, there is a lower chance of survival, greater problems associated with treatment and higher costs of care.
Early diagnosis improves cancer outcomes by providing care at the earliest stage possible and is therefore an important public health strategy in all settings. Compared to early diagnosis, cancer screening is a distinct and more complex public health strategy that requires additional resources, infrastructure and coordination for a targeted group of society, i.e. all women over the age of 40 should have breast cancer screening.
Today, nutrition and cancer have become a global trend to reduce the spread of the disease. Can a healthy diet prevent cancer?
I would like to highlight a few points about nutrition and cancer:
- Reducing meat consumption
- Consuming lots of fruits and vegetables
- Reducing junk food
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Having the perfect healthy weight
What is the role of healthy eating during the treatment of a cancer patient? To what extent does it help to increase the effectiveness of treatment?
A balanced diet that includes all the essential components is key. During a cancer diagnosis, patients and their families tend to make the major mistake of cutting protein, carbohydrates and sugar from their diet, and resort to fasting, which weakens the patient’s body, making him unable to tolerate treatment.
You have established the Emirates Oncology Society and the Oncology and Cancer Research Working Group. How did the Group contribute to publishing numerous research related to the improvement and development of cancer treatment in the country, under your supervision, of course?
The Emirates Oncology Society plays a major role in cancer awareness and also has a scientific role in publishing numerous medical research through cooperation with international centers in order to improve the treatment of cancer patients.
We have done a lot of research that were published in international medical journals in the name of the UAE, and they have received many citations for their quality. Also, some of them were cited to be a reference for some international organizations in the cancer field.
We believe that the only way to improve the cancer sector in the UAE is by developing the clinical research sector.