M.D. Anderson receives $150 million from charity in United Arab Emirates

$150 million dollars — it’s the biggest single gift ever given to a member of the Texas Medical Center.

The money comes from the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation. The ruling family of Abu Dhabi funds and oversees the charity.

Because of medical privacy, hospital officials declined to say whether any members of the ruling family received treatment at M.D. Anderson.

But executive vice president Dr. Ray DuBois says that 6 percent of the hospital’s patients come from overseas. Many are from the Middle East.

He speculates it’s because the energy industry has created ongoing ties between Houston and the Persian Gulf states.

“So we clearly have been treating patients from the United Arab Emirates for several years, and we have a lot of patients that we see that are grateful patients and donate in many different ways and clearly this is an example of that.”

M.D. Anderson will use the money in three ways. First, it will create a research institute for personalized cancer care. Second, it will construct a new building to house that research institute. And finally, the hospital will also create an institute for pancreatic cancer.

DuBois says that personalized cancer care is still mostly in the research stages. But he says the goal is to help doctors choose treatments based on an individual patient’s cancer subtype.

“Standard chemotherapy is like sending in a mortar bomb to blow up the whole area. It doesn’t really target a specific pathway.”

The new approach tries to classify tumor cells by genetics or by tracking how they mutate and grow in the body.

DuBois says the research represents a fundamental shift from standard care:

“For example, colon cancer. There’s probably at least 25 or 30 different subtypes and each of those subtypes responds better or worse to different therapies. You know, once upon a time all colon cancer got the same treatment. It’s called 5-FU. It wasn’t very effective. Now, we have a whole army of drugs for colon cancer and the next step is to molecularly define those even better, so we know which therapies are going to be most effective for those subsets.”

The new building and the new research institutes will be named after the first ruler of the United Arab Emirates and two of his sons.

From the KUHF Health Science and Technology Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.
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