UAE: Genome sequencing to transform cancer diagnosis, treatment

Abu Dhabi - Abu Dhabi has recently expanded the number of sample collection sites for the Emirati Genome Programme.


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Fri 25 Jun 2021, 4:01 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Jun 2021, 11:28 AM

The ground-breaking Emirati Genome Programme (EGP) will improve the lives of citizens affected by cancer with better diagnosis and treatment, a top oncologist said.

“This is a truly remarkable initiative that aims to sequence the DNA of the local population. The objective behind this programme is to be able to predict diseases, understand their progression and recommend targeted and personalised treatment options for patients,” Dr Humaid Al Shamsi, President, Emirates Oncology Society, told Khaleej Times about the national genomics initiative underway in Abu Dhabi.

“With the advances in technology and knowledge, it is becoming clearer every day that we could all benefit from getting our genomes sequenced. The Emirati Genome Programme gives us the chance to create an advanced genomic healthcare system in the UAE and the region, underpinned by the latest scientific advances, to deliver better health outcomes for patients,” said Dr Al Shamsi, who is a professor at the University of Sharjah.

He noted that genome sequencing is transforming treatment and diagnosis of diseases.

“Sequencing in large populations of cancer patients is leading to dramatic advances in our understanding of the cancer genome. From a medical standpoint, it is important to harness the power of genomic medicine and science to improve the health of our population, in line with the UAE’s vision of reducing NCDs mortality rates, including all types of cancer," said the doctor.

"This field is providing us with a far more detailed understanding of what causes illness and diseases and is underpinning the development of new interventions that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.”

The Department of Health (DoH) - Abu Dhabi has recently expanded the number of sample collection sites. Dr Al Shamsi is urging Emiratis to take part in the EGP, which will support better prediction, prevention and treatment of genetic and chronic illnesses for current and future generations.

“The goal is to improve the lives of those affected by cancer, and data from blood samples of buccal swabs will help the medical community understand the causes of any disease, not just cancer. As an Emirati citizen, I am proud to have participated in the programme and urge fellow citizens to participate as well.”

Sample collection sites include the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Biogenix Labs in Masdar City, NMC Healthcare and Burjeel Hospitals in Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain Convention Center, CurePlus Medical Centre and Al Towayya both in Al Ain too.

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