UAE to test effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapy for treating blood cancers

CAR T-cell therapy harnesses the body’s defence system by reprogramming T-cells to go on search-and-destroy missions to kill cancer

Image used for illustrative purpose. A pink ribbon on a pastel pink background. Breast cancer concept.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A pink ribbon on a pastel pink background. Breast cancer concept.


A leading research institute in Abu Dhabi will become the first in the region to locally manufacture and test the safety and effectiveness of an immunotherapy for treating blood cancers, such as myeloma, lymphoma and certain forms of leukaemia.

Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre (ADSCC) on Thursday announced that chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy represents a new, internationally recognised form of immunotherapy.

CAR T-cell therapy harnesses the body’s defence system by reprogramming T-cells, a crucial component in the body’s anti-tumour response, to go on search-and-destroy missions to kill cancer.

These reprogrammed cells become a living drug that mobilises through the body, continually tapping the immune system to attack disease.

Explaining the significance of the clinical trial, Dr Fatema Al Kaabi, director of the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant Programme (AD-BMT) and co-principal investigator of the CAR T-cell clinical trial, said: “We are proud to be the first in the UAE and region to locally manufacture this new and innovative treatment in its entirety and conduct research to better understand the effects it has on tumour cells."

"As a local research institute, we are committed to contributing to Abu Dhabi’s vision of becoming a knowledge-based economy and we continue to invest in cutting-edge research, homegrown, to ensure the people of the UAE and beyond get the best care possible."

Developed in partnership with biomedical research firm Miltenyi Biotec, the CAR T-cell therapy involves the use of apheresis — a minimally invasive blood donation process that separates blood components for analysis and treatment.

A genetic modification is then performed on the T-cell, a type of white blood cell, to attack only the identified tumour cells for each patient.

Dr Yendry Ventura Carmenate, immunology specialist, general manager of ADSCC and principal investigator of the CAR T-cell clinical trial, said: “Cancer treatment continues to be one of the world’s most complex and challenging medical journeys, which emphasizes the growing need for locally generated research and therapeutic innovations."

"Understanding the effect of CAR T-cells among patients will be a long and laborious process, but it also represents an incredible chapter in the UAE’s history, placing it on the world map as a leader in medical innovation and research and development.”

The genetic modification of immune cells involves the use of viral vectors — tools that are commonly used by molecular biologists to deliver materials and information into cells.

Viral vectors were most recently used for the global production of certain Covid-19 vaccines that use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to cells.

Dr Rupert Handgretinger, head of Adoptive Cells Transfer Section and head of Pediatric Service, AD-BMT, said: “We want to ensure that the immune cells we modify effectively target the tumour cells in each patient so we can help guide them on the path to remission. This is where the role of viral vectors and the partnership with Miltenyi Biotec is key."

"By combining the best manufacturing practices with cutting-edge research expertise at Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre, we are confident in achieving successful clinical trials and, ultimately, building a robust CAR T-Cell treatment program in Abu Dhabi.”


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