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B.C. to provide CAR T-cell therapy to some leukemia, lymphoma patients

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Up to 25 cancer patients in B.C. will soon have access to a form of immunotherapy officials described as a “miracle of modern science and medicine” at a news conference Sunday.


Premier David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that 20 adults and five children with some advanced forms or leukemia and lymphoma will be eligible to access chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy in Vancouver – something that was previously only available through clinical trials or by travelling out of province.


“By improving access to CAR T-cell therapy, we’re bringing this new life-saving treatment closer to home for patients with some advanced blood cancers who are no longer responding to conventional treatments,” said Dr. Kim Chi, BC Cancer’s chief medical officer, in a statement.


“This announcement and these new investments will help us expand and improve specialized treatments and diagnostics and make a meaningful difference in the lives of people with cancer and those who love them.”


The therapy, essentially, uses a patient’s own T-cells to identify and target cancer cells. It is used when chemotherapy and radiation have not been effective, officials explained.


A mother whose son was diagnosed with leukemia as a toddler spoke at the news conference, saying a clinical trial was life-saving for her son.


After three years of conventional treatments, M.J. Asrat’s son Hugo still had cancer in his bone marrow. After thirteen days of CAR T-cell therapy, Hugo had no detectable trace of leukemia in his bone marrow, which paved the way for him to have a transplant.


“Today we are delighted to share that Hugo is here, in this room, cancer-free and restored to health,” Asrat said. .


“He returned to school in September, recently celebrated his eighth birthday, and just yesterday finished his first season of soccer. He is embracing the joys of childhood once again.”


INtake and assessment began in January. The first treatment is scheduled for this month, officials said, and funding this treatment will cost $14.3 million in the first year.

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