UAE: 3 studies to examine how breast cancer affects Emirati women

Abu Dhabi - The studies could have a significant impact on the detection and treatment of the disease


Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Sun 10 Oct 2021, 3:39 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Nov 2021, 3:06 PM

Three studies are underway at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, with the aim of offering insights on the awareness, genetic profile and demographics of Emirati women with breast cancer.

The studies, initiated in September, could have a significant impact on the detection and treatment of the disease. They are being led by the Oncology Institute's multidisciplinary team and will rely on voluntary participation as well as retrospective data collected from hospital records over the last five years.

Dr Stephen R Grobmyer, chair of the Oncology Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said these studies will gather specific data that will allow for tailored care and targeted awareness programs for UAE nationals.

“These studies will give us an important starting point to understand how breast cancer affects Emirati women, what are the unique characteristics and risk factors of the disease in the UAE population, and the level of knowledge about family and personal health history among patients," Dr Grobmyer said.

Not only will the approach enable the team to personalise care for patients, but Dr Grobmyer said it also has the potential to inform public health policy and protocols that benefit the population.

First study to provide essential knowledge on history of breast health

The first study on breast cancer health awareness and genetics among Emirati women will provide essential baseline knowledge about breast health history and seek new information about the spectrum of genetic mutations among patients with breast cancer.

Divided into two parts, 100 women having a screening mammography done at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi will be surveyed to understand their breast health literacy.

Another 50 newly diagnosed Emirati breast cancer patients will be invited to take a genetic panel testing to determine the rate and spectrum of genetic mutations among this population. The study is estimated to be concluded in 2022.

“We’ve known for a long time that family history is an important part of a woman understanding her risk of breast cancer. The reason is that breast and ovarian cancer has been found in multiple generations of certain families,” Dr Grobmyer said.

“If a patient knows her family and personal health history, there are several things we can do to help her and her family members. This strategy would include extensive genetic testing, increased frequency of imaging, and prescribing hormonal medications to reduce her apparent risk. However, if a woman does not have that knowledge, it is hard for us to help her make an informed decision on the best treatment plan.”

Second study to find percentage of patients with known genetic mutations

According to Dr Grobmyer, the second part of the study will aim to find the percentage of patients with known genetic mutations and the patterns of mutations for a comparison between the Emirati and Western population.

It will look at the demographics and tumour characteristics of breast cancer among Emirati patients treated or evaluated at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi from May 2015 until June 2021.

Dr Grobmyer said that this study will help them assess if their anecdotal evidence on the demographics and characteristics of tumour in breast cancer patients can be backed by data.

“We are seeing a larger percentage of young Emirati patients with breast cancer at our clinic. This contrasts with the age at which women in the US are diagnosed with the disease. We will assess the age at which these patients developed breast cancer, and the types of cancer, whether invasive or non-invasive, that are more common,” he said.

Final study to evaluate time to treatment initiation

The final study will evaluate the hospital’s time to treatment initiation (TTI) among cancer patients treated or evaluated at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi from January 2018 until January 2020.

Highlighting the importance of this study, Dr Grobmyer said that the purpose is to evaluate their adherence to the US-based National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) cancer staging guidelines.

A recent observational study of 28,000 breast cancer patients in America, which was conducted by researchers at Cleveland Clinic in the US and co-authored by Dr Grobmyer, found a decrease in patient survival rates when treatment options – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – are completed more than 38 weeks from the time of diagnosis.


>> UAE: Pink Caravan to offer free breast cancer screenings at 21 clinics

Rola Shaheen, medical director and chief of radiology at Peterborough Regional Health Centre in Canada and had previously worked for a government hospital in Abu Dhabi for three years, said at a conference last year that she believes breast cancer is still a big problem in the UAE not because there is no equipment or medical experts here, but the lack of awareness among many women about the need for screening.

More news from UAE