Cairo, Egypt: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) joined forces with Novartis Egypt (NVS, and Cairo Runners to celebrate World Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) Day, boost awareness of the disease and highlight advances achieved in the treatment of blood cancers and serious blood disorders.

Building on the global CML awareness day theme for 2023 - #LeaveNoOneBehind - an exciting local initiative was organized to engage the public’s attention and support patients and their caregivers. The National Cancer Institute and NVS Egypt collaborated with Cairo Runners to host a run/marathon designed to inspire hope for those affected by blood cancers while also promoting a healthier lifestyle for everyone involved in the event. The event motto reflected this year’s World CML Day theme, with society coming together to accompany patients on their journey with their disease. The run kicked off and ended at the 500 500 Hospital, which represents hope to all cancer patients in Egypt, in Sheikh Zayed with around 500 people participating.

CML is estimated to have affected ∼1.2 - 1.5 million people across the globe, which makes up about 15% of all leukemia cases. CML is caused by blood-forming cells of the bone marrow making too many white blood cells which results in a significantly enlarged spleen, the spread of cancer cells to the bone marrow, and severe anemia, potentially developing into an acute blood or myeloid cancer.

“Cairo University's National Cancer Institute stands as the largest specialized oncology center in the Middle East and Africa”, Dr. Mohamed Abdel Moaty, Professor of Oncology and Hematology and Dean of the National Cancer Institute, Cairo University said, “The Institute comprises an academic administration focused on teaching, granting postgraduate degrees, and conducting scientific research across various oncology disciplines. It also offers an extensive array of medical services through multiple university hospitals dedicated to diagnosing and treating cancer patients using various methodologies. It also houses a specialized department for community service and environmental development. The institute actively promotes cancer prevention, and early detection, and educates doctors working across Egypt through visiting physician programs and on-the-job medical training.”

“The concept of establishing the National Cancer Institute took shape in the 1950s and quickly materialized. The original building (the northern building) of the institute was constructed in the 1960s and started operations in 1969 with a capacity of 270 beds and a staff of 40 doctors and 150 nursing and medical support assistants, serving 5,700 new patients and 8,000 patients attending outpatient clinics, as per first-year statistics following its opening. Over the years, the institute underwent expansions, including the construction of the new building (the southern building) at the end of the 1980s. More recently, the Breast Cancer Hospital was established in New Cairo, serving as the first specialized center for breast cancer surgeries, medical treatment, and research in Egypt and the Middle East. Currently, the institute boasts a total of 500 beds (including 46 intensive care beds) and 155 beds for chemotherapy and same-day targeted therapy. It currently employs 860 doctors, including professors and teaching assistants, along with 540 nurses who cater to 315,000 cancer patients annually. This figure includes 26,500 new patients each year, constituting approximately one-fifth of cancer patients in Egypt,” Dr. Abdel Moaty noted.

“The institute also performs 10,000 surgeries and endoscopies, administers 98,000 chemotherapy sessions, and conducts 17,000 radiation therapy sessions while providing care for 7,200 patients in the internal department each year. In addition to these services, the institute offers early cancer detection clinics, nutritional therapy, and psychological support for cancer patients. At present, the institute is in the final stages of completing the first phase of the new National Cancer Institute Hospital in Sheikh Zayed City (AKA 500500 Hospital) with a capacity of 360 beds for the internal department. This includes 100 intensive care beds and 38 bone marrow transplant rooms. The hospital also comprises 180 beds in the day treatment unit, 21 major operating rooms, and a range of specialized clinics for diagnosing and treating various types of cancer. Furthermore, it is equipped with a wide array of diagnostic radiology equipment, radiation therapy machines, and modern laboratories. This expansion is set to significantly enhance the institute's capacity, improve the services offered, and reduce waiting lists.” Dr. Abdel Moaty added.

"Novartis has been an industry leader in hematology for over 20 years, advancing treatment paradigms and transforming what it means to live with a blood cancer or serious blood disorder,” Mohamed Sabry, Novartis Egypt Country Value and Access Head, said. “Tackling different types of blood cancer and disorders requires us to stay at the forefront of innovation, which is why NVS is a pioneer in targeted therapies to cell and gene therapy and immunotherapy. For more than two decades, we have developed innovative treatments for patients with CML, and led the era of targeted therapies in blood cancer, making CML a chronic, rather than life-threatening, condition.

“While considerable progress has been made in improving outcomes for blood cancers and serious blood disorders, they still affect numerous people globally. Our legacy inspires our future innovation, as we continue to lead the way in developing novel medication to address serious unmet needs in hematology. An essential component of successful advances in treatment is also ensuring that all those who need them have access to our therapies. Novartis is committed to addressing the barriers that prevent people from benefitting from the medicines they require, irrespective of where they live or their income,” Sabry added.

“We believe that it is crucial to listen to patients and caregivers and address their concerns or carefully consider their experiences and the challenges they face. Through our ongoing Commitment to Patients and Caregivers we strive to respect and understand the perspective of the patient community, expand access to our medicines, conduct responsible clinical trials, and recognize the importance of transparency and reporting. We work closely with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, helping them find the best treatment for patients. Novartis also uses global surveys to better understand patient and healthcare provider perceptions of blood cancers and disorders, as well as the benefits and burden of current treatments,” Amr Nasr, Novartis Egypt Country Public Affairs Head said.

“We are wholeheartedly committed to our ongoing partnerships with Egyptian health authorities in our efforts to raise disease awareness and improve diagnosis and treatment options for patients and ensure access to advanced therapies for all. We are proud to collaborate with the National Cancer Institute, not just today, but in the ongoing quest to pioneer cancer treatments and facilitate their availability. The National Cancer Institute does astonishing work and is an essential component of the Egyptian healthcare ecosystem and it is an honor to provide any support we can to help alleviate the burden borne by society at large, but especially by the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of our community, as a result of these diseases,” Nasr added.

“We would like to thank the NCI for its continued efforts in the field of blood cancer and for this collaboration in particular. We hope this run/marathon, organized with the tremendous support of Cairo Runners, an organization always ready to be involved in a good cause, will help put the spotlight on blood cancers and serious blood disorders in general and on CML in particular,” Nasr concluded.