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Life-saving cancer therapy now being provided in British Columbia

​Cancer patients affected by certain advanced leukemias and lymphomas now have better access to CAR-T therapy closer to home, as the therapy becomes available in the province.
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​Cancer patients affected by certain advanced leukemias and lymphomas now have better access to Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) therapy closer to home, as the therapy becomes available in the province.

This is a partnership between the Province and BC Cancer, Provincial Laboratory Medicine Services, Vancouver General Hospital and BC Children’s Hospital.

“Cancer touches the lives of so many people in British Columbia,” said Premier David 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.”

Intake and patient assessment began in January 2024 with the first treatment starting in March 2024. During initial implementation, 20 adults will be treated at Vancouver General Hospital and an estimated five children/youth will be treated at BC Children’s Hospital, per year.

“This is an important milestone in our continuing efforts to enhance treatment options and expand access to life saving cancer care services for people living in B.C.,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We know that the incidence of cancer is increasing as our population ages and grows at unprecedent rates. That is why we are bolstering our resources and infrastructure to benefit and empower patients and health-care professionals with the support they need in our fight against cancer.”

The Province continues to deliver on more actions under B.C.’s 10-year Cancer Care Action Plan, announced in 2023, by improving access to cervical cancer screening, HPV vaccines, radiation therapy and specialized cancer care for people.

"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, executive vice-president and chief medical officer, BC Cancer. “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.”

Through Budget 2024, the Province invests $270 million over the next three years to provide people with better access to oncologists and specialized cancer diagnostics and treatments, including PET-CT scans, genomic testing, precision radiation therapy, new targeted anti-cancer drugs and specialized immunotherapy. The funding will also support the elimination cervical cancer in B.C., improving in-province access to radiation and systemic (chemo) therapies, increasing support for and collaboration with primary-care providers and recruiting additional cancer-care positions.

Budget 2024 also provides funding for capital projects to further support B.C.’s 10-Year Cancer Action Plan, including cancer centres in Kamloops, Nanaimo, Burnaby and Surrey, and other cancer initiatives. 

This builds on Budget 2023 that provided $270 million over three years for cancer care as part of government’s $440-million initial investment in B.C.’s 10-Year Cancer Action Plan.

In 2022, an expected 32,170 people were diagnosed with cancer and more than 11,000 died because of cancer. For 2023, the expected number would be 33,105.

The 10-year cancer-care action plan is supported by B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, which supports patients by ensuring they get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. This strategy focuses on 70 key actions to recruit, train and retain health-care workers in B.C., while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.


Sarah Roth, president and CEO, BC Cancer Foundation –

“Today’s announcement is an example of the power of philanthropy to transform cancer care. BC Cancer’s CAR-T research program was the first of its kind in Canada and founded 100% through BC Cancer Foundation donor funding. Providing this therapy as standard of care marks the success of this research and will have a tremendous impact on British Columbians in need of the cutting-edge therapy.”

Malcolm Berry, president and CEO, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation –

“Today’s announcement marks an important step forward in the availability of treatment within B.C. for the one in five kids with aggressive cancers who relapse. We recognize the Michael Cuccione Foundation’s investment in the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program at BC Children’s Hospital catalyzed the infrastructure for the delivery of these therapies. We celebrate this milestone as we work together to pursue even greater possibilities for children’s health in our province.”

Gloria Cuccione, executive director, Michael Cuccione Foundation –

“CAR T-cell therapy has changed the lives of patients at BC Children’s Hospital and now there will be increased access for children facing tough-to-treat cancers across the province. Since 2018, our support has made clinical trials a reality for patients and their families. This announcement reaffirms our mission to support novel research, creative thinking and the quest for groundbreaking discoveries that will help continue to help patients with cancers today and in the future.”

Dr. Kevin Song, medical director, Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant Program of British Columbia, and director, Hematology Research Program, Vancouver General Hospital –

“CAR-T is transformational treatment for cancer care, providing specialized cellular therapy for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is an important milestone that will allow patients to receive the best care available at Vancouver General Hospital.”

Abraham and Mary-Jill Asrat, parents of a pediatric CAR-T patient –

“Access to CAR-T was life-saving for our eight-year-old son, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. It has given him back his childhood – school, sports, play dates and time with family. We are thrilled that this innovative therapy will now be an option available to other children facing a similar journey and that it will bring hope to families from across B.C.”

Adrian Chantler, cancer patient who received CAR T-cell therapy in Vancouver through clinical trials –

“I had a particularly obstinate cancer. A few weeks after treatment I started feeling better and today, after just a few months, I’m essentially back to normal. I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to access CAR T-cell therapy without having to travel and with the support of my wife and family nearby.”

Learn more:

To learn more about B.C.’s cancer action plan, visit:

To learn about B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit:

For more information about BC Cancer’s out-of-country radiation program, visit:

For information on B.C.’s HPV self-screening program, visit:

To learn more about HPV vaccines for males born in 2005, visit:

Three backgrounders follow.


Providing better access to Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) therapy for B.C. cancer patients

As part of B.C.’s 10-year cancer-care action plan, the Province will deliver CAR-T therapy at Vancouver General Hospital and BC Children’s Hospital.

Leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, and lymphoma, a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, can impact both children and adults.

CAR-T therapy is a form of immunotherapy that has become a life-saving cancer treatment option for the treatment of refractory or relapsed large B-cell lymphoma in adult patients and acute B-cell lymphocytic leukaemia in pediatric and adult patients, when primary cancer treatments have been unsuccessful.

CAR-T therapy begins with the collection of a patient’s white blood cells. The patient’s collected cells are then genetically engineered to express a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR), which hard-wires them to recognize a protein on cancer cells. The CAR-T cells are infused back into the patient’s bloodstream. Once circulating in the bloodstream, the CAR-T cells are able to recognize and kill cancer cells throughout the patient’s body.

Previously, eligible patients living in B.C. were referred to out-of-province/country cancer clinics to undergo CAR-T therapy. Providing standard-of-care CAR-T therapy in this province will help increase access and ensure eligible patients can receive the care they need in B.C.

Investments in cancer care in British Columbia

Budget 2024 provides an additional $270 million over three years to make progress in delivering on the B.C.’s 10-Year Cancer Action Plan.

Building on the Province’s recently announced cervix self-screening program and extended eligibility for free, publicly funded vaccines to males born in 2005, the additional funding is expected to increase HPV vaccine coverage and help increase participation in cervical cancer screening. This will be achieved by increasing the number of school-based HPV vaccination clinics, increasing the number of out-of-school vaccinations offered within pharmacies, having a robust cancer-prevention and health-promotional campaign and providing additional outreach to those that may have barriers to vaccination.

A key pillar of strengthening cancer care is ensuring B.C. has a successful health-care workforce. Budget 2024 will help with the recruitment of cancer-care positions through the creation of additional seats in post-secondary programs for difficult-to-recruit positions.

Recent cancer-care investments throughout B.C.

The Province’s commitment to eliminating cancer has resulted in more than $1 billion in investments since 2017 to support the creation of a strong and sustainable cancer-care system in B.C., including:

  • In September 2017, the Province expanded the publicly funded HPV vaccine program in British Columbia through a school-based program to include Grade 6 children.
  • In December 2017, in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation BC, BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and BC Cancer, the Province announced an Indigenous cancer strategy to improve cancer care and supports for Indigenous Peoples throughout B.C.
  • In July 2019, the Province announced the third publicly funded PET/CT scanner in B.C. and the first to be located in Victoria and outside of the Lower Mainland.
  • In November 2019, the Province launched a 10-point Youth Vaping Provincial Action Plan to address the rise of youth vaping.
  • In 2020, BC Cancer Research became a formal UBC (University of British Columbia) senate-approved and Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA)-approved research institute.
  • In August 2020, the Province announced the fourth publicly funded PET/CT scanner in B.C.
  • In November 2021, the Province provided $10 million to the Centre for Cancer Prevention and Support to boost research and innovation for cancer prevention and survivor assistance by connecting discoveries more rapidly to programs.
  • In December 2021, the Province launched the first at-home HPV cervix-screening pilots.
  • Since the cervix self-screening program was expanded in January 2024, approximately 25,000 kits were requested by people in B.C. in the first month of the program.
  • In July 2022, the Province added eight Indigenous patient navigators to help patients who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit receive supportive care that is trauma informed and culturally safe.
  • In March 2022, the Province launched the Lung Screening Program, providing access to eligible high-risk people at 36 sites throughout the province.
  • In 2022, government provided services to 4,000 people queued in the Hereditary Cancer Program wait list.
  • On Feb. 24, 2023, the Province launched B.C.’s Cancer Care Action Plan, investing $440 million to expand cancer-care teams and service hours, introduce revised pay structures to ensure B.C. is attractive and competitive for oncologists and cancer-care professionals, improve cancer screening programs, support cancer research, increase Indigenous patient support positions, and support patients who must travel for care from rural communities.
  • In April 2023, the Province announced a new 3T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine is being installed at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) and an existing 1.5T MRI machine is being replaced.
  • In May 2023, the Province announced new cancer centres will be coming to the Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) and Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) with the approval of concept plans for both locations.
  • In May, 2023, BC Cancer began temporarily offering eligible patients radiation treatment at one of two clinics in Bellingham, Wash., to support B.C.’s cancer plan and reduce wait times for radiation treatment.
  • In September 2023, the Province broke ground on the new Surrey Hospital and BC Cancer centre and announced business plan approval for phase 2 of the Burnaby Hospital redevelopment plan that will include a new inpatient tower and an integrated cancer centre.
  • In September 2023, the Province invested $20 million to expand medical travel support, providing the Canadian Cancer Society and Hope Air with $10 million each as part of the $440 million investment through the 10-year Cancer Action Plan.
  • On Nov. 27, 2023, Richmond Hospital’s updated cancer clinic, which includes an innovative Remote Symptom Monitoring (RSM) system, opened to the public.
  • In January 2024, the Province implemented a new cervical cancer self-screening program, extended eligibility for free, publicly funded vaccines to males born in 2005, and announced that construction is underway in Vancouver for a new state-of-the-art cyclotron and radiopharmacy laboratory.
  • In February 2024, the Province announced a new state-of-the-art computed tomography (CT) scanner is being installed at Squamish General Hospital (SGH). Approximately $6.5 million is being funded by the Province through Vancouver Coastal Health and Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District to support this action.

Recent key achievements

Since the launch of B.C.’s 10-Year Cancer Action Plan in 2023, key achievements include:

Prevention and screening:
Targeted initiatives have been launched to increase vaccination rates, along with expansion to screening programs, with increased volumes.

  • Pharmacy-based campaign launched to provide free HPV vaccinations.
  • Launched HPV testing, including provincewide self-screening.
  • Increased screening volumes for breast (+4.3%), colon (+7.8%) lung (+4.3%) and hereditary (+20.4%) compared to last year.
  • Providing electronic notifications for screening and reminder notes and vaccinations and allowing electronic booking of appointments.

Timely access:
More patients and treatments are being provided compared to last year.

  • Patient volumes have increased by 9.3% compared to last year for systemic therapy, and by 1.3% for radiation therapy.
  • Wait times of patients receiving treatment within four weeks for radiation therapy have improved from 67.9% from July to August 2023 to 78.6% from January to February 2024, and continue to improve, as a result of capacity and workflow improvements.

Major growth in physicians, staff, redevelopment plans and capital, to better provide care.

  • 80 cancer doctors and 104 regional centre staff full-time equivalents (FTEs) or 8% increase, have been added over the past year.
  • Approval of business cases for Kamloops Cancer Centre and concept plan approval for Nanaimo Cancer Centre.
  • Investments in major capital equipment for PET/CT, e.g., $21-million investment for new cyclotron and radiopharmacy laboratory.

Expansion in clinical trials for emerging treatments at all centres to increase survival and cure rates.

  • Clinical trials to support access to emerging treatments in flight at all six BC Cancer Centres:

    • 23 radiation therapy clinical trials this year;
    • 13 startup and seed grants; and
    • significant multidisciplinary and research projects.
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