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New CAR T-cell cancer treatment program coming to Alberta

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: New CAR T-cell cancer treatment program coming to Alberta' Health Matters: New CAR T-cell cancer treatment program coming to Alberta
Health Matters August 24: A new cancer treatment for recurring leukemia and lymphoma will soon be available in Alberta. It's called CAR T-cell therapy. And Dr. Deena Hinshaw comments on the first documented case of COVID-19 re-infection in Hong Kong. Su-Ling Goh reports. – Aug 24, 2020

A “made-in-Alberta” clinical trial is set to get underway this fall at three medical centres as part of the province’s new CAR T-cell therapy program.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Monday the new partnership between the government and the Alberta Cancer Foundation will put $15 million into the new treatment program that’s expected to serve 60 patients each year.

“Alberta will become the third province to offer CAR T-cell therapy, a promising new therapy and promising new treatment for those with specific types of leukemia and lymphoma,” Shandro said.

Read more: Alberta smartphone app helps cancer patients understand care

Shandro said the new clinical trial will be conducted at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, the Cross Cancer Institute and the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

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CAR T-cell therapy involves removing a patients’ own cells from their bodies, modifying them in a lab to make them better at fighting off cancer and putting them back in the body to attack the cancer cells.

The Tom Baker Cancer Centre will also be the first medical centre in Alberta to offer the treatment in winter 2020, Shandro said, with the other facilities to follow. It’s also expected the therapy will be available at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in 2023.

“Cancer patients in our province need the most effective treatments that are available to them in this province. With the establishment of a CAR T-cell therapy program in our province, we’re providing Albertans with the very best cancer care and ensuring that they receive the treatment needed for optimal recovery and remission,” Shandro said.

Shandro said about 60 patients a year are expected to avail of the program. The therapy costs about $400,000 per patient.

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The new partnership will see the Alberta Cancer Foundation put forward $5 million and the government of Alberta give the remaining $10 million.

Ontario and Quebec also offer CAR T-cell therapy.

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