ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center (ADSCC), a PureHealth subsidiary and the largest healthcare platform in the Middle East, has successfully manufactured the UAE’s first CAR-T cells to treat an 11-year-old boy with leukemia. Engineered CAR-T cells therapies are recognized as a breakthrough in blood cancer treatment.
The child, Murad, was diagnosed with leukemia more than five years ago and went into remission, but unfortunately, the leukemia returned approximately six months ago. Murad underwent chemotherapy, as per standard protocols for his case, but did not respond to that treatment. At that point, CAR-T cell therapy was the only treatment option available for him.
The procedure involved manufacturing the cellular product (CAR-T), which relies on the use of immune cells from the patient, at ADSCC’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) laboratories – one of very few laboratories in the Middle East. The treatment took five weeks, during which Murad was admitted at ADSCC, the only accredited Centre of Excellence in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Abu Dhabi. Physicians withdrew the cells from the patient and genetically modified his immune cells in the laboratory to fight the cancer cells after intravenously injecting them into the patient.
Dr. Noura Khamis Al Ghaithi, Undersecretary of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi said: "Under the directives of our wise leadership, Abu Dhabi continues to cement its position on the global healthcare map. Through its capabilities and continuous innovation and research efforts in the field of life science, we are able to enhance the health and safety of members of our community, and beyond. Today, Abu Dhabi's healthcare sector is built on several pillars that make the emirate a leading destination for healthcare, especially given the strong governmental support and guidance, along with the emirate's advanced infrastructure, its healthcare facilities, and skilled workforce."
Dr. Yendry Ventura, CEO of ADSCC, said: “Our success in creating CAR-T therapy right here in Abu Dhabi marks a momentous leap in our commitment to making a profound impact on a regional level. CAR-T therapy is a remarkable advancement for fighting diseases using the body’s immune system, and there was a pressing need to make CAR T cells available in UAE. This achievement not only brings hope to countless patients but also strengthens our position as pioneers in cutting-edge medical innovation, right here in the heart of the UAE. With the support of UAE’s leadership and the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, we aim to revolutionize perceptions of cancer treatment by pushing the limits of what can be achieved through cell therapy where genetically modified immune cells are used to precisely target tumors in individuals with specific blood cancers. Bringing in such advancements, providing unparalleled care to complex cases, conducting clinical trials and research will help elevate the healthcare sector and serve the humanity tackling prevalent diseases and health problems. We’re truly thrilled to see Murad doing well.”
Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi, Executive Director of Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant Program (ADBMT©) at ADSCC, said: “ADSCC researchers, scientists and physicians have devoted the past year to prepare for the imminent launch of engineering CAR-T cell therapy. This milestone demonstrates ADSCC’s unparalleled commitment to advancing medical science in the region, and is testament to the capabilities of ADSCC, the availability of cutting-edge technologies, and its top-notch expertise. With Murad’s condition not responding to chemotherapy, our hematologists and scientists worked closely with Murad’s treating physicians at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) for a smooth transfer to ADSCC to receive CAR-T cell therapy, the only effective treatment for his condition. It is a proud moment for us all as we see Murad returning back to his home and family. The launch of such an advanced technology in the country solidifies the UAE’s position as a global destination for medical advancements and research in line with our wise leadership vision.”
CAR-T cell therapy has long been a monopoly of foreign pharmaceutical companies and has been an approved treatment in the US since 2017. Due to its difficulty and sensitivity of manufacturing, its accessibility has been limited in the region.
Murad’s father, Majid, expressed how delighted he was with the success of his son’s treatment, which is the first of its kind in the UAE. He said: “We were devastated when Murad was diagnosed again with Leukaemia after almost five years of remission. Unfortunately, chemotherapy did not work with him this time. His treating oncology physicians at SKMC discussed his case with ADSCC physicians and it was decided that the only treatment for his condition was to perform CAR-T therapy. We are truly lucky that this very advanced breakthrough became available at this time when Murad needed it. The team provided us with full information on the procedure, what to expect and the steps throughout the treatment journey. I did not hesitate once. Murad is our first child, thanks to Allah, he is now in good health and back home with his sister. A word of thanks is not enough to the whole team at ADSCC who helped Murad come back home. We are truly lucky to be in the UAE, which has always been our home providing us with care, safety and beyond. We wish all children good health, and for those fighting cancer, you are true heroes.”