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Fikri İçli, Hakan Akbulut, Shouki Bazarbashi, Mehmet Ayhan Kuzu, Mohandas K. Mallath, Kakil Ibrahim Rasul, Scott Strong, Aamir Ali Syed, Faruk Zorlu and Paul F. Engstrom

Colorectal cancer is less common in the Middle East and South Asia than in western countries, with the rectum the most common primary site, unlike in the United States. A project was planned to address various local issues regarding the management of common cancers, including colorectal cancer, and to adapt the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. A survey of oncologists in this geographic area showed that the management practices and issues regarding colorectal cancer are similar to those presented in the NCCN Colorectal Cancer Guidelines. However, 2 major differences exist: most oncologists in the MENA region prefer chest radiograph over CT in pretreatment workup, and almost 50% of them prefer to use cetuximab in the first-line treatment of patients with the wild-type KRAS gene. The committee, comprising 9 oncologists from different countries, proposed 4 modifications to the 2009 version of the NCCN Colorectal Cancer Guidelines for use in the MENA region, relating to 1) short-course preoperative radiotherapy, 2) dose of capecitabine, 3) stereotactic radiotherapy for liver metastasis, and 4) qualification of surgeons performing colorectal surgery. The modification of NCCN Colorectal Cancer Guidelines for use in the MENA region represents a step toward creating a uniform practice in the region based on evidence and local experience.

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Rehab Abdelwahab, Anas Hamad, Randa Al Okka, Mohd A. Wahid, Khalil Ullah Shibli, Wael Saleem, Ahmed El Geziry, Fathi Saleh, Kakil Rasul and Shereen Elazzazy

Background: Up to 70% of cancer patients experience pain during the course of illness (Fallon, Support Care Cancer 2008). Studies showed that 40%–50% of patients with cancer pain receive insufficient analgesia due to different factors. Physicians are facing different challenges to accurately assess pain which might affect drug selection and pain control (Beyeler et al, Support Care Cancer 2008; Salminen et al, Support Cancer Care 2008; Stewart, Ulster Med J 2014). In NCCCR, treating physicians may prescribe analgesics to their patients or refer them to the Pain Management Service (PMS) based on their evaluation or as requested by patients. This study explored the factors which might lead to undertreatment of cancer pain in Qatar. In addition, focused on cancer patients’ pain management satisfaction and PMS awareness. Objectives: To assess the existing PMS at NCCCR from patients' perspective. Methods: In this study, we evaluated patients’ pain management perception via a validated written (Arabic and English) questionnaire (SF-MPQ-2; available at; Gauthier et al, J Pain 2014) and a structured interview by outpatient pharmacists at a single point of time, to assess patients` awareness towards the PMS, if they are receiving pain medications or not, if they are experiencing any pain regardless on pain medications or not, pain severity, and patients’ level of satisfaction towards their medications. A sample of 400 patients was randomly selected amongst the total cancer population visiting NCCCR Pharmacy over a specific period of time. Participants were consented and interviewed. Results: 400 patients agreed to participate; the median age was 50. Male to female ratio was 3 to 7. Data showed that 61% (245/400) of participants were not aware of the existence of the PMS. Only 20% (78/400) were aware and followed by PMS, with a satisfaction rate of 76% (59/78). Although 69% (276/400) of the patients were on pain medications, only 70% (191/276) were satisfied with their current medications. However from the satisfied patients, 57% (109/191) rated their pain as 4–10 at the time of interview (ATI). In the 31% (124/400) that were not taking any pain medications; 77% (96/124) didn’t know about the PMS, and 44% (55/124) had 4–10 pain severity (ATI). Conclusion: These findings provide clear evidence that factors leading to undertreating of cancer pain in Qatar might be unawareness of the PMS existence, pain treatment by unspecialized physicians, and patients’ reluctance to express their pain. Thus, raising patients’ awareness and standardizing the referral criteria can improve pain control and quality of life amongst cancer patients.

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Nabil El-Hadi Omar, Sahar Nasser, Mahmoud Gasim, Maneesh Khanna, Abdulqadir J. Nashwan, Jonas W. Feilchenfeldt, Kakil Rasul and Anas Hamad

Background: Microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) is shown to predict response to the immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICPi). Recently, the FDA granted an accelerated approval for the use of pembrolizumab in any solid tumor and nivolumab in metastatic colorectal cancer in patients with MSI-H. However, the immune-related adverse events (irAEs) exhibit a unique heterogeneous spectrum than conventional chemotherapy adverse drug reactions (ADRs). Underestimating the irAEs could be potentially lethal. Objectives: To evaluate the irAEs; their management, and outcome in MSI-H patients treated with ICPi at the National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) in Qatar. Methods: All patients with MSI-H and treated with ICPi at the NCCCR between January 2015 and June 2018 were reviewed retrospectively. Radiologic assessment of irAEs and Naranjo score were used to estimate and confirm the probability of ADRs. Patient demographics, immunotherapy treatment, reported irAEs, and their management were collected. Results: Of the total cohort of patients receiving ICPIs; 9 patients with MSI-H were identified; all received pembrolizumab. 45% (n=4) of the patients were still actively on treatment; 22% (n=2) received only 1 dose then passed away; 22 % (n=2) discontinued because of disease progression; and 11% (n=1) of the patients received 2 cycles as neoadjuvant treatment. To the best of our knowledge, this is the biggest cohort of cancer patients with MSI-H in the Middle East. Calculated Naranjo score was 7 in 45% of the patients (n=4) and 5 in 22 % of patient (n=2), which indicates a probable ADR. 34% of the patients (n=3) did not experience ADRs till the date of data cutoff. 8 irAEs were seen in 67% (n=6) of the patients (Table 1). Based on laboratory or radiologic confirmation, 87.5% (n=7) were irAEs and 12.5% (n=1) was not related to pembrolizumab. Laboratory findings confirmed 25% of the ADRs and radiologic findings confirmed 75% of the ADRs. Of those who developed irARs, 3 patients required a hold of treatment, 1 needed monitoring, and 2 required pharmacologic interventions. There was one patient who received empirical pharmacologic intervention at which evaluation showed no relation to immunotherapy. Conclusion: irAEs can sometimes be unpredictable, rare, and often missed. Frequent monitoring and early management of these suspected or confirmed adverse effects is life saving and should be done in a multidisciplinary approach.

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Rehab Abdelwahab, Anas Hamad, Shereen El Azzaz, Randa Al Okka, Mohd A. Wahid, Khalil Ullah Shibli, Ahmed El Geziry, Fathi Saleh, Kakil Rasul and Wael Saleem

Background: Studies showed that 40%–50% of patients with cancer pain receive insufficient analgesia due to different factors (Beyeler et al, Support Care Cancer 2008; Salminen et al, Support Cancer Care 2008), beside the challenges to accurately assess pain, which might affect drug selection and pain control (Stewart, Ulster Med J 2014). In NCCCR, the treating primary physicians (PP) may prescribe analgesics to their patients or refer them to the Pain Management Team (PMT), based on evaluation or as requested by patients. This study will address the clinical concerns of PP, which may lead to refer the patients to PMT, moreover the clinical judgement of PMT on the referred cases whether they need to be refereed or not. Objectives: To determine the efficiency of the referral pathway to the pain clinic by PMT. Methods: PMT is going to assess the referred patient to their clinics according to pain assessment methods. Patients will be evaluated whether they have been appropriately referred or not, any unnecessary referral will be documented based on the following;

  • • If the patient was referred by hematologist or oncologist

  • • If the patient required specialized treatment

  • • If the patient required urgent treatment/prescription or advanced pain management techniques

  • • If the patient required further consultation by pain management

  • • If the patient could be managed by PP

Results: 195 patients were newly referred to the pain clinic during the period from March 8, 2018 to August 31, 2018. 12% (23/195) were deemed as unnecessary referrals based on PMT assessment; 43% (10/23) of them were hematology patients, while 57% (13/23) were oncology. The majority was for breast cancer and sickle cell disease patients with 35% for each. According to the PMT assessment, 61% (14/23) patients (95% CI, 40.79%–77.84%) considered unnecessary referrals due to improper basic pain assessment and management by PP, while 30% (7/23) patients (95%CI, 15.60%–50.87%) asked for refill medications. Conclusion: There is 12% unnecessary referrals to PMT, which need further improvement in the referral pathway, via the development of a definite referral criteria to PMT. PP should be encouraged to provide basic pain treatment and to consider multidisciplinary management with appropriate coordination for better improvements in patients’ quality of life.