Ain Sokhna convention tackles cancer treatments, cures

Ingy Deif, Sunday 23 Sep 2012

Oncology experts from Europe and Arab world meet in Egypt's Ain Sokhna from 13 to 16 September to discuss latest developments in cancer treatment

cancer convention Ein elsokhna

In a country in which cancer is on the rise, an important event took place from 13 to 16 September in the Egyptian seaside town of Ain Sokhna, where Oncology experts from Europe and the Arab world gathered to discuss the latest cancer treatments and give new hope for cancer patients in the first Euro-Arab School of Oncology (EASO) seminar.

Some of the pressing questions raised by participants were: What happens when cancer tumours become resistant to available treatments? How can we use available resources and medications when obstacles of this kind are met?

The answers to these questions and others, along with the latest treatments and newly approved drugs, were the highlights of the EASO conference.

Dr Nicholas Pavlidis, co-chair of the Euro-Arab School of Oncology, kicked off the event by reminding participants that the European School of Oncology had been founded because of a misdiagnosed cancer case. He stressed that the school's raison d'etre was to prevent tragedies stemming from a lack of education, as well as maximising the efficiency of treatments that have proven successful in the past.

Dr Hamdy Abdel-Azim, head of the oncology department at Cairo University, shed light on the latest advances in breast cancer therapies by describing a drug recently approved by the FDA and EU for postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer, which, he said, represented a "breakthrough" in comparison with conventional treatment. The drug is administered orally, he noted, allowing patients to resume their normal lifestyle during treatment.

Dr Heba El-Zawahry, meanwhile, head of medical oncology at the National Cancer Institute, emphasised that early diagnoses were "the key to efficient treatment." She pointed out that cure rates for the first and second stages of breast cancer ranged from 75 to 90 per cent.

Dr Mustafa El-Serafy, for his part, president of the Egyptian Cancer Society, explained how tumours might become resistant to certain drugs.

"Seventy per cent of breast cancer cases are characterised by hormone receptor-positive tumours, a group of cancers that work as receptors for certain hormones – such as oestrogen and progesterone – and are treated with endocrine therapies," El-Serafy explained. "Eventually, however, these tumours can become resistant to these drugs."

One of the ways that reportedly regulates resistance to endocrine therapies is a certain inhibitor that reverses resistance, allowing the treatment to work again, doctors explained.

According to Dr Yasser Abdel-Kader, director of oncology at Cairo University, studies have shown that women with advanced breast cancer treated with both everolimus and the endocrine therapy exemestane had 7.8 months of progression-free survival – the length of time during and after treatment during which the disease does not advance – compared to 3.2 months for women given exemestane alone.

Although breast cancer was the main focus of the event, Dr Haddad, dean of the National Cancer Institute, also discussed advances in the treatment of chronic leukemia (CML).

"CML treatment has significantly advanced over the past 15 years since the development of Imatinib, the drug referred to as the 'magic bullet for cancer'," he said. "Today, CML patients have treatment options that achieve a more rapid response and higher cure rates."

EASO is an initiative of the European School of Oncology (ESO) aimed at promoting and facilitating cultural and educational exchanges between Europe and the Arab world in the field of cancer medicine. It has been developed in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and the Arab Medical Association against Cancer.

EASO seeks to ensure that expertise and the most up-to-date knowledge in the field of cancer-prevention and cure is efficiently promulgated throughout the Arab world by developing a web of scientific relationships and collaborative efforts between cancer specialists in Europe and the Middle East region.


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