New cancer therapy program coming to Alberta

The province has partnered with Alberta Cancer Foundation and will give $15M to Alberta Health Services (AHS) to bring in a new treatment.

This will allow Albertan’s with specific types of leukemia and lymphoma to have access to the cancer therapy program called CAR T-cell therapy, in both Calgary and Edmonton. The announcement was made on August 24.

A clinical trial will begin in Alberta, which will see CAR T-cells manufactured within the province at the Cross Cancer Institute, the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic and the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The funding will also pay for nursing staff, health care worker training and education, patient education and psychosocial support, diagnostic imaging and follow up care.

In the meantime, treatment using CAR T-cells manufactured in the U.S. should begin by winter 2020 at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, with the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Cross Cancer Institute following suit. The Stollery Children’s Hospital should start offering treatment by 2023.

“I was given three months to live and we didn’t have the option of getting CAR T therapy here, but it was available in the U.S. So; as a family we decided the risk was worth it, to see if the treatment would work. I recently had a PET scan and I am in remission. I am very grateful and thankful. I’m not through this yet, but I’m in a good place and now I can just focus on my recovery. I’m so pleased this treatment is going to be available to Albertans who need it,” said Martha Kandt, resident of Lacombe and cancer patient.

This therapy genetically reprograms a patient’s immune cells to attack the cancer cells within the body. It is typically given to patients when conventional cancer treatments are ineffective.

“CAR T-cell therapy trials have demonstrated durable remissions and potential cures in about 50 per cent of adults and 80 per cent of children and young adults. We want to provide Albertans with the same recovery opportunities, and that’s why we’re establishing a made-in-Alberta program. Our government is pleased to be partnering with the Alberta Cancer Foundation to make this happen,” said Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.

Dr. Andrew Daly with Alberta Health Services said that establishing the CAR T-cell therapy program in Alberta is an enormous leap forward in treating patients with hematological malignancies. Adding that, “this is life saving therapy.”

This will make Alberta the third province to offer CAR T-cell therapy, which is already available in Ontario and Quebec.

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