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Cancer Frontline

Conquest - Summer 2014

Building a personalized approach to cancer therapy

In 2011, MD Anderson received a $150 million gift — the largest in its history — from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation. Three years later, construction of the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care is well underway, with the exterior completed and a “move-in” date set for spring 2015.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care
Photo: F. Carter Smith

The 12-floor, 626,000-square-foot facility will be home to the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, an international center of clinical excellence that uses the latest advances in genetic information to develop safer, more effective treatments for patients on a case-by-case basis.

That includes support for preclinical research and clinical trials in which each patient’s cancer cells are examined to determine their genetic and molecular mutations so that therapy can be tailored to their needs.

The building also will be the nerve center for the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research. This will be dedicated to accelerating discoveries that significantly impact a deadly disease that’s on the rise yet remains underfunded compared to other cancers. Each year, some 43,000 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed. Of those, 80-85% are inoperable.

“It’s a revolutionary time to be at MD Anderson if you’re a cancer researcher,” said Anirban Maitra, co-director and scientific director of the pancreatic research center. “It’s an incredible opportunity to build one of the best, most well-rounded pancreatic cancer groups in the country, bringing MD Anderson’s basic scientists, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and pathologists all under a single umbrella.
“Integrated, multidisciplinary research and patient care will allow MD Anderson to become the vanguard place for pancreatic cancer treatment and research.”

What about the name on the building?

Photo courtesy of the Khalifa Foundation
Infographic: Michael Clarke
Click on the image to see a full version

Follow this timeline through the life of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan:

Sheikh Zayed is born in Abu Dhabi, the youngest of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s four sons. His father was Ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1922-1926.

  • At the time of his birth, the emirate was undeveloped. Its economy was mostly based on fishing, pearl diving and some agriculture.
  • Late 1920s and ‘30s: Sheikh Zayed spends time in the desert with the Bedouin tribesmen, learning their ways and gaining an appreciation of the environment. It’s here he falls in love with falconry.

Sheikh Zayed becomes the ruler’s representative in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi, serving in this post until 1966.

Sheikh Zayed makes his first visit to Europe. He is so impressed by the schools and hospital he visits that he’s inspired to replicate them for his own people.

Oil is discovered in Abu Dhabi. The discovery will transform the country’s economy when export of the region’s crude begins four years later. Sheikh Zayed quickly realizes the enormous potential of oil industry revenue.

The first hospital in Al Ain is founded on the instructions of Sheikh Zayed.

Sheikh Zayed becomes ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. His leadership marks the beginning of a modern administrative structure, while ensuring that traditions of the past are maintained and preserved.

Great Britain announces it will withdraw from the Arabian Gulf by the end of 1971.

The United Arab Emirates is formed. Sheikh Zayed becomes the first president of the UAE on Dec. 2. During his first years in power, roads are constructed, electricity is installed and schools and hospitals are built. Since 1971, the population has grown from approximately 250,000 to 9.3 million today.

United Arab Emirates University is formed by Sheikh Zayed.

Following Sheikh Zayed’s initiative, the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman form the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC) at a summit conference in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed dies. His son Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan becomes president of the UAE.

The Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation gives $150 million to MD Anderson in honor of Sheikh Zayed. It makes possible the construction of the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care.

Exterior of the Zayed Building is completed.

The Zayed Building will be ready for occupancy in the spring.

Read about the latest progress in Making Cancer History® at Cancer Frontline.

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center