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During the five-week CAR-T treatment of 11-year-old Murad, experts withdrew his cells, genetically modified it in the lab to gain the possibility of fighting cancer cells after injecting them back intravenously to the patient. Photo for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News File

Abu Dhabi: Experts in Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center (ADSCC), a PureHealth subsidiary, have successfully manufactured the UAE’s first CAR-T Cell to treat an 11-year-old boy who was fighting ferocious leukaemia. Engineered CAR-T cell therapies are recognised as a breakthrough in blood cancer treatment.

The child, Murad, was diagnosed with leukaemia more than five years ago and went into remission, but unfortunately, the leukaemia returned six months ago. He underwent chemotherapy as per standard protocols for his case but did not respond to it. At that point, there was little hope for his case, with CAR-T Cell Therapy being the only treatment option for him.

Engineered CAR-T cell therapies are recognised as a breakthrough in blood cancer treatment.

The procedure involved manufacturing the cellular product (CAR-T), which relies on the use of immune cells from the child, at ADSCC’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) laboratories — one of very few laboratories in the Middle East.

During the five-week treatment, the child was admitted at ADSCC, the only accredited Center 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 gain the possibility of fighting cancer cells after injecting them back intravenously to the patient.

CAR-T Therapy has long been the exclusive domain of foreign pharmaceutical companies and has been an approved treatment in the United States since 2017.

Due to its difficulty and sensitivity of manufacturing, its accessibility has been limited in the region. PureHealth is the largest healthcare platform in the Middle East.


On this occasion, Dr. Noura Khamis Al Ghaithi, Undersecretary of the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi stated: “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 stated: “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.

Pushing the limits

“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 revolutionise 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 tumours in individuals with specific blood cancers.

"Bringing in such advancements, providing unparalleled care to complex cases, and conducting clinical trials and research will help elevate the healthcare sector and serve humanity tackling prevalent diseases and health problems. We’re truly thrilled to see Murad doing well.”

Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi, Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant (ADBMT) programme 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.”