In the UAE approximately 4.500 new cases of cancer are reported in a year, which means 12 new cancer cases a day, according to the Abu Dhabi Health Authority.
In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, 1,729 new cases were detected in 2012 alone, with 28 per cent among Emiratis and 72 per cent among expatriate residents. This made cancer the third leading cause of death in Abu Dhabi, accounting for 13 per cent of all fatalities.
The UAE National Health Agenda 2021 has included cancer as one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess the nation’s health-care goals being on track. The target is to reduce cancer deaths to about 64.2 per 100,000 of the population by 2021.
Cancers of major public health relevance such as breast, cervical and colorectal cancer can be cured if detected early and treated adequately.
Regular screening examinations by a health care professional can result in the detection and removal of precancerous growths, as well as the diagnosis of cancers at an early stage when they are most treatable.
Cancers of the cervix, colon, and rectum can be prevented by the removal of precancerous tissue. Screening is known to reduce mortality for cancers of the breast, colon, rectum and cervix.
Vaccinations have been associated with the prevention of some cancers. Human papillomavirus vaccine prevents 70% of cervical cancer. Hepatitis B vaccine prevents hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer.
Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer causing 22% of global cancer deaths and 71% of global lung cancer deaths.
About 30% of cancer deaths are a result of unhealthy life style: lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol, lack of a balanced diet with low fruit and vegetable intake.
Newer promising therapies focus greatly on working against the 300 human genes known to be related to cancer, and especially against genetic mutations that lead to the progression of cancers, known as driver genes.
These new treatment methods, or targeted therapies, only work to kill cancer cells and driver mutations. Traditional methods such as chemotherapy, kill both cancerous and non-cancerous cells.
Another new area of research focuses on enhancing the body’s own defence mechanisms against cancer cells.
The human body has its own T-lymphocytes, that promotes cell immunity to fight cancer, but certain cancer genes can block their effect. o, new drugs are being developed to reduce cancer cells’ resistance to the effect of T-cells, and two have already been approved in the US.
The new immunotherapy drugs actually go in as repairmen for the defects in the affected gene in many cases. Now, there are more personalised therapies where the dosage, intensity and duration of the treatment depends on the responsiveness of the patient.
In the prevention of cervical cancer in women, for instance, the best prophylactic is the vaccination. But there are many breakthrough therapies that have shown very good results. For instance, the new oral drug for ovarian cancer is a targeted therapy to reduce progression of this cancer.
These are also advanced oral immunotherapy drugs to cure kidney, lung and skin cancers, which are labelled as Anti-EGFR and Anti ALK treatments, used for recurrent, metastatic first- and second-line cancers.
These therapies have shown to increase life expectancy in cancer patients. Duration of treatment: a minimum of one year or until progression is stopped.
The cost of treatment is expensive, about Dh23,000 per month. According to some recent statistics 76% of UAE residents are under insured for critical illness such as cancer and other severe diseases and that 85% of women are not covered.