Allocation Assist

Interview with Dr Emmanouil Manos Nikolousis, Consultant Haematologist and Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist at American Hospital, Dubai.

Dr Emmanouil Manos Nikolousis is a UK board-certified Clinical Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant Consultant with over 18 years experience. After completing his specialist training in the West Midlands region of England, Dr Nikolousis became the Clinical Director of Haematology and Stem cell transplantation at Heartlands Hospital, part of University Hospitals Birmingham, one of the the top 5 Hospitals in the UK. Under his leadership, the Haematology Department was awarded the 2019 Team of the Year distinction for their innovative and patient-focused care for Haematology and Bone marrow transplant patients. Dr Nikolousis was a member of the Acute Leukaemia Working Party in the UK for 10 years. Dr Nikolousis has also worked in Greece and Cyprus, where he was an Associate Professor of Haematology and the Chair of Medical School at the European University of Cyprus.

In November 2023, Dr Emmanouil Nikolousis relocated to American Hospital Dubai. Dr Nikolousis, alongside the excellent multispeciality team at American Hospital, is developing and expanding the stem cell transplantation service, bringing hope to many patients with types of cancer, such as leukaemia, myeloma, and lymphoma, and other blood and immune system diseases affecting the bone marrow.

At Allocation Assist, we like to keep in touch with our doctors and follow their careers. We were excited to talk to Dr Nikolousis about his experiences and achievements since relocating to the UAE.

Dr Nikolousis, thank you so much for making time in your busy schedule. Could you please tell us about your background, training and experience?

I completed my haematology and bone marrow transplantation specialist training in the UK, in the West Midlands region. My main interests are benign and malignant haematology, as well as bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapies. I was head of department at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital for about 6 years, and then got a higher management role for the whole of Birmingham for different specialties including haematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation.

Why did you decide to relocate to Dubai?

After the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a lot of restructuring and mergers in the NHS, as well as longer waiting lists for treatment. I was seeking a new challenge, and to work in a dynamic and forward-looking health system. The UAE has an well-established and expanding healthcare sector, strategically supported by the government, with both public and private providers. There is great potential to build and develop new services here. Dubai is also a great place to live.

Why did you choose American Hospital Dubai?

American Hospital has an established reputation as one of the most advanced hospitals in the region, accredited to the highest internationally recognised standards. It also has comprehensive oncology and hemato-oncology units with excellent specialist staff and facilities. American Hospital is one of only a few centres in the UAE that carry out stem cell transplantation, and the only hospital in Dubai currently offering this service. So, when I was offered this post, I saw it as a great opportunity to contribute to an expanding and much-needed service for this region. The hospital management is very supportive of innovation and education and there is an emphasis on providing the highest standards of care, with quality management systems to ensure constant improvement and optimal outcomes for patients.

Can you tell us a bit more about stem cell transplantation?

Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) is performed to replace damaged blood cells with healthy ones, by transplanting stem cells removed from the blood or bone marrow. Stem cell transplants may be autologous (where the patient’s own stem cells are used), or  allogeneic (where the stem cells come from a donor) in cases where the patient does not have normal stem cells available. Stem cell transplants can be used to treat conditions affecting the bone marrow or blood cells, such as leukaemia or lymphoma. Transplants can also be carried out to replace blood cells that are damaged or destroyed as a result of intensive cancer treatment. This treatment has great potential to save lives but it requires a well-trained, large, multidisciplinary team. It is also necessary to implement rigorous quality management systems and ensure that patients are well-monitored and followed up.

How is stem cell transplantation expanding at American Hospital?

At American Hospital, we obtained approval from the Dubai Health Authority and have started autologous transplants. For this procedure the patient’s own healthy stem cells are collected.  This is usually performed to allow blood cell recovery after the administration of high dose cancer therapies that would otherwise irreversibly damage them. We are currently undergoing the process for international accreditation with JACIE – Europe’s official accreditation body for stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy.

We are planning to start allogeneic stem cell transplants in the near future, where donor stem cells matched for human leukocyte antigens (HLA), are used.  Where a related donor from the same family cannot be found, an unrelated volunteer may donate stem cells. There is a need for more stem cell donors, especially from Middle Eastern and Asian ethnic groups. There is a lot of planning and paperwork required to ensure the correct procedures and quality assurance systems are in place. We also need to ensure that the correct funding is in place for the cumulative costs of treatment and follow-up. Those receiving stem cell transplants are usually covered by medical insurance, however healthcare costs for donors are not currently covered. There are charities that may be able to help patients and donors in some cases.

Providing allogeneic stem cell transplantation in Dubai will enable us to help many more patients with blood and bone marrow disorders, such as acute leukaemias, lymphoma, myeloma, and aplastic anaemia. Previously, many patients have travelled abroad for treatment. Providing the treatment in Dubai will have great benefits for continuity of care, as these patients require immunosuppression, close monitoring and a very long follow-up period to prevent or manage any complications. We also have patients coming from other countries in the Middle East and Africa, where there is currently a lack of stem cell transplantation services.

Have you experienced any differences working here?

My clinical practice is the same as in the UK, as we follow the same international standards and guidelines. There are differences in the systems, as we are working with private medical insurance providers, and the NHS is a public health system. The hospital management are very supportive in pushing forward service development. There is less bureaucracy, which means that things move more quickly,

Due to the differences in population demographics, we tend to see younger patients here in Dubai, and outcomes for young patients are generally better than for older patients. At American Hospital we have great facilities and well-trained staff. Patients have their own single rooms which can help to minimise the risk of cross-infection.

How is your experience of living in Dubai?

I love it here. Dubai offers a great quality of life. There are so many options for things to see and do in Dubai and the rest of the UAE, and we can also visit neighbouring countries, such as Oman. Dubai is a convenient travel hub to get to and from Europe. The accommodation provided by the hospital is excellent. Currently, my wife and children visit as often as possible but they are planning to move to Dubai. It is a great place for families, with good international schools and it is a very safe environment.

People take safety for granted when they move to other countries but the reality is very different, in Dubai safety is the reality.

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