UAE: New blood test to detect cancer in patients with non-specific symptoms

The test can identify 16 types of cancers and determine suitable treatment methods

Reuters file for illustrative purposes
Reuters file for illustrative purposes

Nandini Sircar

Published: Thu 27 Jan 2022, 3:43 PM

A revolutionary new blood test - costing less than Dh1,000 in the UAE - can identify a range of cancers in patients with non-specific symptoms.

The early success of this technology makes it the first blood-based test in the country that not only detects cancer, but can also aid in determining the appropriate treatment for patients.

Details about the hPG80 test was revealed on the final day of Arab Health 2022. The test is the first of its kind in the world that is capable of detecting the presence of cancer in the body even before initial symptoms appear.

The technology can detect 16 types of cancers, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, thyroid cancer, leukaemia and prostate cancer, which constitute about 50 per cent of most cancer cases.

Shedding light on the new test and the recent statistics of cancer in the UAE, Dr Hisham Al-Hakim, president of the American Spine Centre and chief medical officer of Balsam, said: "There is a new hope for cancer patients. The hPG80 test is characterised by high sensitivity to detect tumours. The cost of this test is around Dh735 and within three weeks, a patient gets to know of the results.”

Out of a population of 10 million, Dr Al-Hakim said around 4,800 cases of cancer are detected in the UAE every year.

"The death rate in the country is 40 per cent, which is very high. High incidents of cancer also happen in young adults (ages 20-49) and this should trigger a warning. A lot of cases also remain under-reported," he said.

UAE's cancer rate among young adults is higher than in countries such as Canada, the UK and US.

"The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that cancer is increasing by 1 to 1.25 per cent a year… that’s a warning," Dr Al-Hakim said. "Lifestyle, inactivity, smoking, stress, poor sleeping hygiene, deficiency of Vitamin D and introduction of chemicals and fertilisers through our food chain and use of plastic materials like cutlery can lead to increased risks of cancers.”

Dr Al-Hakim pointed out that health systems around the world are striving to adopt early cancer screening techniques to improve treatment and preserve patients’ lives.

The problem with cancer is not only in its late diagnosis but in malignant tumours that spread silently, as their symptoms do not appear until after they escalate and reach a stage where treatment is difficult, he said.


Dr Dominique Joubert, director of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), France, said: “The analysis of (hPG80), which was invented and developed in France, has proven its effectiveness in detecting more than 16 types of cancer in the very early stages of the formation of cancer cells.”

She explained that the main outcome of the study is the documentation and approval of the new blood test and its high accuracy in early diagnosis of cancers. It is also the fastest way to diagnose diseases and determine the appropriate treatment for patients.

“This, combined with traditional screening methods, can be useful for detecting breast, colon and lung tumours, which leads to timely intervention and improvement of treatment results, in addition to reducing the death rate due to cancer, and avoiding its transmission from one organ to another,” she added.

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