Quebec rescues colorectal cancer patients by approving Avastin


    MONTREAL, Oct. 2 /CNW/ - The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada
welcomes the recent decision of Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard to
approve Avastin (bevacizumab) for colorectal cancer patients in Quebec.
    "Having Avastin available for colorectal cancer patients with advanced
disease provides many patients with a real opportunity to prolong their lives.
In some cases patients may sustain long term remission or even find a cure
when coupled with surgery," said Barry D. Stein, president of the Colorectal
Cancer Association of Canada (CCAC).
    "Timely and equal access to effective medications for Canadian patients
remains a key objective for the Association. With this decision Quebec joins
only two other provinces (British Columbia and Newfoundland) that have made
the decision to approve Avastin. The evidence is that this medication is
effective and the failure of other provinces to approve it represents a threat
to all cancer patients who require treatment in accordance with clinical
treatment guidelines," said Stein.
    The decision to approve this medication will also provide equality for
patients throughout Quebec who previously could not afford to purchase the
medication. This will mean that those who had to forgo treatment for financial
reasons will now have access to the medication. Prior to this decision, only
one hospital in Quebec, the Segal Cancer Center of the Jewish General Hospital
in Montreal, routinely offered the medication to patients.
    "Despite the costs to the hospital drug budget the clinical data
supporting its use was compelling; it was the right thing to do," said
Dr. Gerald Batist, Director of the Center and Chair of the Department of
Oncology at McGill University.
    "We were very pleased to work with our colleagues throughout Quebec to
share their experience as well as ours with the product. An important aspect
of the approval process was the implication of clinicians in the evaluation
process more than ever before," said Dr. Batist.
    Avastin is now approved in Quebec for first and second line treatment of
metastatic colorectal cancer with treatment up until progression of the
disease. "While this is not a complete open door we believe that this will
help those patients who are in the most need of the medication and who
demonstrate a positive effect from it," said Stein.
    Primary prevention and screening for the disease also remain a top
priority for the Association. In an effort to sensitize the Representatives of
the National Assembly on the issue both from a personal perspective as well as
from a societal perspective the CCAC will host a luncheon at the National
Assembly restaurant this October 30th and provide an information session on
both colorectal cancer screening and treatment with well known experts
Dr. Victor Plourde and Dr. Felix Couture.
    "Now that Quebec has recognized the importance of treating colorectal
cancer patients with the most effective medications there should be an
immediate focus on prevention both with regard to diet and exercise as well as
with respect to launching a population based colorectal cancer screening
program," says Stein.
    Three other Canadian provinces are embarking on screening programs
(Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta). British Columbia has a program awaiting
approval before their Ministry of Health and Nova Scotia is developing plans
to bring in colorectal cancer screening in the near future.
    The Colorectal Cancer Association has been advocating for screening in
Quebec for several years and has supported the call with an awareness campaign
in Quebec on TV, radio and in print with the late George Thurston (Boule
Noire) and other Quebec personalities such as Gilles Renaud to draw attention
to this important issue.

    NOTES TO EDITORS:

    About colon cancer

    Colorectal cancer - cancer of the colon or rectum - is the second leading
cause of cancer deaths overall in men and women in Canada. The disease
surpasses both breast and prostate cancer in mortality, and is second only to
lung cancer in numbers of cancer deaths.
    Even though it is preventable, an estimated 20,800 (5,400 in Quebec)
Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and
approximately 8,700 (2,400 in Quebec) are estimated to die from it. An almost
equal number of men and women are diagnosed each year with colorectal cancer
in Canada.
    On average, 385 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer every
week and 163 people will die from it every week. One in 14 men and one in
16 women are expected to develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. One
in 28 men will die from it and one in 31 women will die from it.

    About CCAC

    The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada is a non-profit organization
whose mission is to increase awareness and educate Canadians about colorectal
cancer, support patients and their families, and advocate for a national
screening policy and timely access to treatment and diagnostics.
    Visit the CCAC's website for additional information on colorectal cancer
at www.colorectal-cancer.ca or call 1 877 50 COLON, 514 875 7745,
416 920 4333.




For further information: or to schedule an interview with a patient or
physician, please contact: Barry D. Stein, Colorectal Cancer Association of
Canada, Cell: (514) 944-0200, barrys@colorectal-cancer.ca, (514) 875-7899, or
(514) 875-7745