Dr. Fadi Nasr: Immunotherapy is cancer patients’ new hope, and Lebanon is the first to adopt it!

The medical world is witnessing rapid development in various fields, and this has affected cure rates and improved the lifestyle of patients suffering from chronic diseases. Among the most prominent of these fields is the treatment of cancer diseases. Intensive studies are being conducted regarding this field in order to strengthen and activate its effect; leading to positive results. Dr. Fadi Nasr, head of the Oncology and Hematology Department in Mount Lebanon Hospital sheds light on this development. Mount Lebanon Hospital is one of the most advanced medical centers in Lebanon in terms of cancer treatments; whether it is chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or immunotherapy.


What are the factors that lead to an increase in cancer patients worldwide?

There are three key factors that lead to this increase:

– First, the increase in life expectancy has elevated the possibility of getting diagnosed with cancer. In Lebanon, the life expectancy for women is almost 80 years and 75 years for men.

– Second, the environmental factor is also very influential. The increased emission of air pollutants and the negative impact of technological development on the environment have led to an increase in cancer cases.

– Third, the advanced medical developments help diagnose cancer cases, thus increasing the rate of cancer patients. However, these developments have improved the evolution of treatments for diseases that lead to death more than cancer, such as heart and lung diseases.


What are the pillars that you have built for cancer treatment? Recently, immunotherapy treatment has emerged, what is its importance?

Cancer treatment is based on three main pillars:

1 – Surgery.

2 – Chemotherapy, Targeted Therapy, and Immunotherapy.

3 – Radiation Therapy.

Until this moment, no cure has overshadowed another and each cure has its own significance. But it is true that today immunotherapy is being tackled more because it has proved its effectiveness. If we go back a few years, it could be said that the dispersion of cancerous cells would translate to inevitable death. However today, through immunotherapy this fatal disease can be transformed to a disease that patients can live with.

It is of utmost importance to properly define immunotherapy. Cancer is in a class of diseases that is characterized by the rapid multiplication and deployment of cancerous cells that lead to the patient’s death.

Hence, the first line of treatment, chemotherapy, emerged to kill the cancer cells that multiply rapidly. The reason that these cancer cells multiply quickly is due to a genetic defect that needs to be controlled through targeted therapies. However, cancer cells can become resistant to them, so new advanced research was conducted to identify other ways to treat cancer more effectively.

Around ten years ago, a study conducted on skin cancer revealed that by strengthening patients’ immunity systems, 20% of them were fully cured from the disease. That was a really big surprise: the body’s immune cells, which have always protected the body from various diseases, are capable of destroying the fatal cancer cells. However, these immune cells have to be stimulated and increased in number in order to cope with the antibiotics generated by cancer cells. This treatment has opened the door to a lot of success stories and improved treatment results.

It is important to note that there are many types of immunotherapy and multiple methods to awaken the immune cells that may have been affected by the cancer cells.


What gives Mount Lebanon Hospital a leading position in terms of cancer treatment?

Mount Lebanon Hospital was built mainly on the pillars of cancer treatment. The hospital includes cutting-edge equipment for radiotherapy and highly experienced surgeons of the world’s most prestigious universities specialized in cancer diseases. Most importantly, the hospital provides all kinds of cancer treatment which makes it one of the highest caliber hospitals.


Do you think that with all this medicinal development in Lebanon, there is a reason to travel abroad in search of cancer therapy?

Lebanon is the second country in the world, after the United States of America, which has adopted immunotherapy. Some countries are delaying the introduction of immunotherapy into the medicinal world due to the exorbitant cost associated with it.

In Lebanon, The Ministry of Health distributes the immunotherapy drug according to indications that are internationally approved (FDA Approved). Since its adoption, Lebanon has gained a very advanced position among Arab countries.


– With all this development to treat cancer, what can hinder or stop the healing process?

The main factor that might hinder the healing process is when the patient does not respond to the treatment. The patient might respond the first time he/she is exposed to the treatment, however, he/she might become resistant if the cancer cells develop resistance to the medication. Hence, early diagnosis is crucial to assess the kind of cancer and develop a map that determines its prevalence which is based on three main points: the size of the disease, the lymph glands infected, and the organs affected.


What is the importance of the Oncology Forum held by the Mount Lebanon Hospital on January 27th?

The importance of the conference lies in the fact that Mount Lebanon Hospital is one of the pioneers in this area that brings together all of the specialists in cancer treatments, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and immunotherapy. This conference will have a primary role in raising awareness about immunotherapy in order to improve the results of treatment and secure the best service for every patient.

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