Oncologist hails Saudi blood cancer drive during awareness month

Dr. Ayman Alhejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh. (Supplied)
Dr. Ayman Alhejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 September 2022

Oncologist hails Saudi blood cancer drive during awareness month

Dr. Ayman Alhejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences
  • Patients, carers can receive support to ease emotional and financial burdens, says Dr. Ayman Al-Hejazi

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is using Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September to raise awareness about leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease, support patients affected by blood cancer and raise funds for research, a Saudi oncologist has said.

According to a GLOBOCAN 2020 report issued by the World Health Organization, Saudi Arabia had 4,326 new cases of blood cancer, including 1,698 patients who were detected with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 1,676 with Leukaemia, 687 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 265 with multiple myeloma.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Ayman Al-Hejazi, assistant professor of hematology oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences in Riyadh, said: “Raising blood cancer awareness is becoming increasingly important in Saudi Arabia. There are three main types of blood and bone marrow cancers: Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

“In addition to the disease’s malignant nature, blood cancer treatments and management affect patients and caregivers financially and emotionally. People living with any form of blood cancer are impacted in their ability to perform daily activities. A strong emotional impact on people living with the disease includes worry about their future, their treatment and the possibility of relapsing.”

He believes that there is relatively low awareness about blood cancer around the world.

Al-Hejazi, who also spearheads the Saudi Adult Hematology Fellowship Training Program at King Abdulaziz Medical City and serves as the program director, told Arab News: “Awareness is important, and I believe that the government of Saudi Arabia is making tremendous contributions toward raising it through various programs and initiatives.

“However, I equally believe in the importance of collaborative work between governments, healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies that offer innovative treatments in creating the most efficient treatment strategies, disease management approaches, and most importantly, post-treatment care plans designed to extend patients’ remission.”

He said that at least nine major national cancer centers provide treatment to patients in Saudi Arabia.

All types of blood cancer affect patients on various levels, and raising awareness to ensure early cancer detection and treatment can save many lives, and improve the quality of life for those undergoing treatments, in remission or their latest stages of recovery as well as those undergoing repeated therapies.

Dr. Ayman Al-Hejazi, Assistant professor of hematology oncology, King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences

While the Kingdom is considered a high-income country, cancer treatment drug shortages remain a significant challenge around Saudi Arabia as well as in other developed countries.

“One of the solutions to this challenge would be focusing on treatments and disease management strategies that extend remission periods and optimize drug admission. Novel agents in addition to the introduction of more convenient initiatives like the on-body drug delivery systems for cancer therapeutics can reduce overall disease costs,” said the oncologist.

Discussing the different types of blood cancer affecting people in the Kingdom, Al-Hejazi said: “All types of blood cancer affect patients on various levels, and raising awareness to ensure early cancer detection and treatment can save many lives, and improve the quality of life for those undergoing treatments, in remission or their latest stages of recovery as well as those undergoing repeated therapies.

“All types of blood cancer are dangerous and patients in the Kingdom are frequently diagnosed with all of the types. Multiple myeloma is considered to be the second most common hematologic malignancy,” he added.

Multiple myeloma — most frequently diagnosed in people aged between 65-74 — is a cancer of plasma cells, which are types of white blood cells found in bone marrow. However, in the Kingdom, many cases are detected at a younger age, with less than 7 percent of population being older than 65.

Commenting on common symptoms and diagnostic strategies in different stages of blood cancer, the oncologist said that some of the common symptoms of blood cancer include weight loss, bruising or bleeding, lumps or swellings, shortness of breath, drenching night sweats, persistent, recurrent or severe infections and high fevers. Multiple myeloma symptoms can also include bone pain that is persistent or recurrent, fractures, persistent tiredness due to anemia or kidney failure as well as nervous system disorders.

Initial blood cancer diagnoses may include a complete blood count test that measures the amount of each type of blood cell in a sample, as well as a bone marrow biopsy to confirm multiple myeloma, Al-Hejazi said.

First treatments are likely to include a formula of different drugs. Chemotherapy is often thought of as the only treatment option, but a range of cancer drugs are also available in the Kingdom.

A majority of people newly diagnosed with blood cancer receive emotional support and care from family, but many patients still feel isolated even when surrounded by relatives and turn to the internet for help, said Al-Hejazi.

Family members are more likely to give multiple types of care, such as helping the patient in their general housework. Carers can often be highly impacted by their role, affecting them psychologically, socially and financially. Meanwhile, cancer patients can develop mental health conditions and most commonly experience depression and fear.

The most important objective, however, should be to extent progression-free periods, with the ultimate treatment goal for multiple myeloma being to minimize patients’ and caregivers’ economic burdens, said Al-Hejazi.

The term blood cancer is a general description of various hematopoietic cancers. Our blood flows through blood vessels to supply all tissues in the body with nutrients.

In about five liters of blood circulating in our body there are billions of blood cells that carry out various vital functions. All blood cells originate from hematopoietic stem cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells are known as mother cells and are able to renew and replace other cells that die.

Blood cancer is an abnormal proliferation of cells in bone marrow, especially white blood cells. Cancer cells flood the blood and drive out healthy cells.

As a result, the blood can no longer perform its basic tasks, such as transporting oxygen and protecting the body from infection.

 


Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
Updated 08 December 2022

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
  • Speaking as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh for an official visit, Prince Faisal bin Farhan said bilateral relations are characterized by friendship, trust, cooperation and coordination
  • Xi is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development

RIYADH: Three summits due to take place in Riyadh in the coming days reflect the shared determination of the Kingdom, the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations and the wider Arab world to strengthen cooperation and enhance strategic relations with China in pursuit of greater growth and prosperity for all of the countries and their peoples, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“The relations between the Kingdom and China are strategic and close in light of the international developments and changes taking place,” he said.

He added that the bilateral relationship is characterized by friendship, mutual trust, cooperation and continuous coordination, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

His comments came as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday evening for a three-day official visit, during which he is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development.

Prince Faisal praised the contribution made by a high-level Saudi-Chinese joint committee to the development of relations between the two countries in many fields. He said the bilateral economic relationship is progressing rapidly against the backdrop of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which offer promising opportunities for cooperation, sustainable development and mutual benefits.

He added that China has ranked as the Kingdom’s top trading partner since 2018, and that the value of bilateral trade in 2021 was SR309 billion ($82.1 billion), an increase of 39 percent compared with the previous year.


Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
Updated 08 December 2022

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
  • Prince Badr met with a number of his counterparts on the sidelines of the forum
  • A number of agreements were signed during bilateral meetings to enhance cultural cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, on Wednesday organized the 23rd Conference of Arab Culture Ministers in the capital, Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and chairman of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, was attended by ministers and officials from 20 Arab countries, as well as representatives of the Arab League, and regional and international organizations.

The minister of culture, who is also president of the 23rd session, said: “This year’s session, whose main theme is: ‘Culture and the green future,’ aims to make the cultural sector more sustainable, as we seek to make it the starting point of international efforts involving the cultural sector with its various branches, extending to cover all elements of its value chain.”

He added: “The utilization of culture toward the green future contributes to instilling culture in the global development debate, which receives the full attention of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through the Kingdom’s participation in global cultural platforms, where the ‘Culture and the green future’ theme conforms to the goals of the Kingdom Vision 2030.”

He said that this, in return, highlights the Kingdom’s support of collective efforts to enhance knowledge, skills and practices related to making the cultural sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

During the conference, ministers focused on the role of culture in achieving sustainable development, while working to develop effective sectorial policies that bring added value to collective efforts to move toward a more creative and sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Prince Badr met with his Egyptian counterpart Nevin Al-Kilany on the sidelines of the forum, where the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the cultural field.

The memorandum included cultural fields, such as heritage, visual arts, performing arts, literature, books and publishing, Islamic decoration and other creative tracks.

It also included work to enhance the participation of Saudi and Egyptian intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to joint cooperation in training and qualifying local artistic cadres, and benefiting from experiences in the two countries in the fields of museums, urban heritage and handicraft industries.

Prince Badr praised the strong strategic relations that link the Kingdom with Egypt in all cultural fields. The two parties also discussed cooperation in the field of registering intangible heritage files with UNESCO, and cooperation in the field of exchanging expertise through cultural scholarship programs.

Prince Badr met with the Moroccan Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid where another agreement was signed to enhance cultural cooperation in various fields, including literature, publishing and translation, heritage, architecture and design, museums, theater and performing arts.

The memorandum also included enhancing the participation of Saudi and Moroccan intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to exchanging expertise in organizations and cultural policies.

He also held similar meetings with the Director-General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Salem Al-Malik, and the Director-General of ALECSO, Mohamed Ould Amar, where they discussed the most prominent current cooperation programs between the organizations and the Kingdom, and memoranda of understanding were signed.

He also met with his Tunisian and Djiboutian counterparts, and the president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.


Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 
Updated 08 December 2022

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met Director General of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization Mohamed Ould Amar in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The meeting was part of the Saudi minister’s bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the 23rd session of the Conference of Arab Culture Ministers, which was held in the Saudi capital and organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with ALECSO.

During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ministry and ALECSO to enhance cultural cooperation through a range of items, including registering natural sites and heritage elements in UNESCO lists.
 


Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit
Updated 08 December 2022

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday participated in the work of the 154th session of the preparatory ministerial council for the 43rd session of the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was held at the headquarters of the GCC General Secretariat in Riyadh.
The meeting was chaired by Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, who is also president of the council’s current session, with the participation of Gulf foreign ministers, and GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf.
During the meeting, the ministers discussed ways of enhancing the process of joint cooperation and coordination between the GCC countries, and the developments of the situation in the region.
They also discussed the latest regional and international developments, and the schedule of the work of the Chinese-Gulf Summit for Cooperation and Development that will be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and GCC leaders.


Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks
Updated 07 December 2022

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

RIYADH: Sweden’s envoy to Saudi Arabia recently met with the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for talks on ways to further strengthen cooperation links.

During their meeting in Jeddah, ambassador Petra Menander and OIC chief Hissein Brahim Taha also discussed other issues of mutual concern.

In a tweet, Menander said: “Excellent discussion with Hissein Brahim Taha, secretary-general of @OIC_OCI on topics of common interest — need to increase global levels of humanitarian support, women, and youth empowerment, and more. Looking forward to continued dialogue.”

While visiting the Red Sea port city, the Swedish envoy also met with Saudi doctors trained in Sweden and now working in the Kingdom.

In a separate tweet, she said: “In Jeddah, catching up with Saudi doctors with specialist training from top university hospitals (in Skane/SUS, Sahlgrenska), now all leaders in healthcare.

“Great discussion on primary healthcare, workplace conditions, and other topics of common interest. Great to see you all — greetings to absent friends,” she added.

The new Swedish ambassador submitted her credentials to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September.

On behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, deputy minister for protocol affairs, Khalid Al-Sehli, received a copy of Menander’s credentials.

In October, Menander held a meeting with Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim to discuss topics of common interest and areas to develop cooperation.

The Saudi-Swedish Business Council was launched in October 2021 and inaugurated in Sweden’s capital Stockholm by Saudi Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi and Swedish Foreign Trade Minister Anna Hallberg.

Al-Qasabi said the council acted as a mainstay in stimulating and encouraging the private sectors of both countries while helping in the development of bilateral relations, exchange of expertise and knowledge, and the coordination of investment planning and related partnerships.

He added that Saudi Arabia was, “keen to enhance trade cooperation, facilitate exports to Sweden and Scandinavian countries, and exchange expertise and knowledge.”

Saudi Arabia is Sweden’s most significant economic partner in the Middle East and the No. 1 trade partner among Scandinavian countries, with the volume of trade exchange in the past five years reaching more than $6 billion.