B.C. expanding specialized cancer care, treatment in Vancouver

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B.C. expanding specialized cancer care, treatment in Vancouver
The province is expanding access to a new form of cancer treatment for some patients with leukemia and lymphoma. It's part of a $270 million funding announcement for cancer care in B.C. and a push by the NDP government to change the narrative around health care. Grace Ke reports – Mar 10, 2024

“(We are) strengthening cancer care in B.C.” Those were the words B.C. Premier David Eby used Sunday morning to announce the provincial government is expanding access to a new form of cancer treatment in Vancouver.

Starting this month, leukemia and lymphoma patients will be able to access chimeric antigen receptor therapy, also known as CAR-T therapy, at Vancouver General Hospital.

“Cancer touches the lives of so many people in B.C.,” said Eby.

“Our goal is to lead the country with better and faster ways to prevent, detect and treat cancers so we can stop this disease in its tracks. That’s why, starting now, we are supporting eligible cancer patients and their families who are facing the most devastating cancer threats by providing CAR-T therapy right here in British Columbia.”

CAR-T therapy will also be provided at BC Children’s Hospital for young patients.

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The expansion of services will be funded through the B.C. government’s three-year, $270-million plan for new spending on cancer treatment and care.

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Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix says $14.3 million in this year’s budget means up to 20 adults and five children will be able to get treatment at Vancouver General Hospital or BC Children’s Hospital starting this month.

BC Cancer Foundation Dr. Kim Chi said this form of immunotherapy will make a difference.

“This is a treatment that trains a patient’s own white cells to recognize and kill cancer cells,” he said. “The funding announced today will further accelerate and improve cancer care in our province, now and for the future.”

More than 30,000 British Columbians were diagnosed with cancer last year, after more than 600,000 screenings.

Dix said the need for more specialized cancer treatment and therapies continues to grow as the province’s population ages.

MJ Asrat, whose son Hugo received CAR-T therapy as part of a clinical trial, told the press conference announcing the funding that it made him healthy enough to receive a bone-marrow transplant after more than three and a half years of chemotherapy to treat is leukemia.

She said the eight-year-old is now cancer free and “embracing the joys of childhood once again.”

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“To the medical researchers who tirelessly push the boundaries of science and to the selfless donors who give hope to families like ours, we owe you an immeasurable debt of gratitude,” she said.

B.C. has hired 80 new cancer doctors in the past 12 months, as well.

— with files from Canadian Press

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