The King Hussein Cancer Centre in Amman opened the first regional cancer tissue bank last week with a European grant of €550,000 ($733,000).
The project is the first of its kind in the Arab world, and the centre is expected to begin operations in 2012.
The project is vital to keep pace with international research on cancer and effective treatment methods, said a November 20th press statement from Dr. Mahmoud Sarhan, director of the King Hussein Cancer Centre.
"Specialised medicine applies individual treatment protocols for every patient based on documented data about the patient's condition and the nature of relevant genetic factors. So the treatment targets the tumour alone, without harm to sound tissues, and with fewer side effects, leading to improved health care and treatment for cancer patients."
The project will contribute to research that leads to the discovery of new treatments for cancer patients and new causes of the disease. The goal is to provide doctors greater ability to prevent the incidence of cancer among the most vulnerable patients, especially because some types of cancer are linked to the environment, nutrition, pollution, lifestyle, smoking and obesity.
There are 13 cancer patients per 10,000 citizens, according to the Jordanian Ministry of Health, which is an average rate for the region.
Dr. Maher Alsaghir, director of laboratories and pathology for the King Hussein Cancer Centre, said analysis of tissue samples will support early detection of cancer and give an accurate picture of the evolution of the disease in its various stages and the ability to predict future developments.
He said research results will not be available for several years until tissues are analysed. The bank will serve Jordan and the region, with the possibility of entering into research partnerships with European countries.
Dr. Mohammed Tarawneh, director of the National Cancer Registry at the Ministry of Health, said it was important to establish the bank to apply the latest technologies in cancer treatment.
Tarawneh said Jordan is always seeking to cooperate with research centres worldwide, especially in the field of cancer treatment. According to the National Cancer Registry, cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease in the kingdom.
"Awareness campaigns are important because studies indicate that 20% of people with cancer are smokers," he said.
The Jordanian government spent 500 million dinars ($703 million) on health care in 2010, representing about 8% of government spending for the year, according to a study published the National Centre for Human Rights. Out of the 500 million dinars, cancer treatment spending was estimated between 100 and 140 million dinars ($140-197 million).
The five most common types of cancer among Jordanians are breast, colon, lung, lymphoma and leukaemia.
For children aged 14 and younger, the most common cases of cancer include leukaemia, lymphoma, brain, and the central nervous system.
Anwar al-Abadi, a health care journalist, mentioned successful awareness campaigns Jordan adopted in the past, such as the Jordan Breast Cancer Programme.
"The programme was a successful experiment in early detection and mortality reduction. It increased the rate of detection of the disease in its early and secondary stages to over 70% last year after it had stood at 35% for several years, and this was reflected in the survival rate from the disease."
Ahmed Taha, a college student whose mother died of cancer, emphasised the importance of establishing a cancer tissue bank.
"Any effort to combat and treat this brutal disease is a good effort that must be supported by the private sector institutions and companies," he said.
Taha noted the high cost of treating the disease and called for continued financial and technical support to institutions devoted to specialised treatment.