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Janssen, National Guard offer breakthrough genetic testing for leukemia patients

Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, owned by Johnson and Johnson, has announced the successful completion of a knowledge transfer program that is improving outcomes for leukemia patients in Saudi Arabia. In cooperation with the Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs, the initiative offers vital genetic testing to patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, to ensure the most appropriate treatment is given, and prognosis and outcomes are improved. Supported by the Saudi Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, this is the first time this vital test has been offered in the region.

Identifying the presence of a mutation within the immunoglobulin heavy-chain variable region gene (IGHV) is a vital tool in treating CLL. It is recognized as a marker of overall survival rate, and an acknowledged prognostic factor in the disease. Identification of the mutation ensures the most appropriate treatment is given to improve patient outcomes.
Under the knowledge transfer project, two pathologists selected by the SSBMT received training on the sophisticated next-generation sequencing technique in Switzerland. They then returned to Saudi Arabia with the knowledge and skills to train colleagues and establish testing capabilities in the Kingdom. The program, sponsored by Janssen, is in line with Saudi Vision 2030’s goal of developing the Kingdom’s healthcare capabilities and supporting localization within the healthcare sector.

CLL is the most common leukemia diagnosed in adults. The Saudi Cancer Registry reports that leukemia is the fifth most common cancer in Saudi adults, and the incidence of the disease is on the rise, due in part to an aging population. But while the average age of diagnosis is 70, increasing numbers are being diagnosed at a younger age within the Kingdom.

Dr. Ahmed Alaskar, president of SSBMT and executive director, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, said: “When we understand the molecular basis of the disease, and ensure an individualized approach to treatment, we really can improve survival rates. Being able to offer CLL patients in the Kingdom this type of molecular testing is a real breakthrough.”

Mohammed Alquwaizani, general manager at Janssen, Saudi Arabia, said: “For several decades, Janssen has been establishing public-private partnerships within the Kingdom to deliver groundbreaking solutions for patients with added value to the healthcare system. We are committed to — and invested in — supporting Saudi Arabia’s position as a pioneer in healthcare capabilities.”

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