MISSISSAUGA, ON, May 26 /CNW/ - Lymphoma Foundation Canada (LFC) applauds Ontario's recent decision to publicly fund Rituxan (rituximab) in combination with Fludarabine-based chemotherapy for patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
"Lymphoma Foundation Canada applauds the Ontario government for making Rituxan publicly accessible to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients," said Sue Robson, executive director, Lymphoma Foundation Canada. "Rituxan is the standard of care for CLL, and this news provides hope for Ontarians living with this disease."
LFC strongly advocates for the best treatment and care for lymphoma patients, and promotes rapid access to new treatments. Currently Nova Scotia is the only province that does not provide access to Rituxan.
"When I was first diagnosed in 2003, I worried about how long I had to live, and about what might happen to the many people who rely on me - my wife, daughter and two grandchildren. Now that I have access to Rituxan, I have hope," said Bill Niblock, a Hamilton, ON resident living with CLL. "It seems so unfair that it's not accessible to all Canadians who need it. I hope other people like myself who are living with this disease will be given the chance to live as long as possible."
CLL progresses slowly and usually occurs in people over the age of 50(1). Once CLL progresses to the advanced stages, the disease becomes aggressive and dramatically shortens the life expectancy of the patient.
"CLL is currently considered incurable, therefore the goal of treatment is to control the disease by managing symptoms and extending the time patients live without their disease worsening. When combined with chemotherapy, Rituxan can help patients live longer without their disease progressing than those treated with chemotherapy alone," said Dr. Ronan Foley, clinical haematologist and director of the Stem Cell Laboratory, Hamilton Health Sciences. "The Ontario government's decision to reimburse Rituxan means that many more patients in this province can now access this important treatment. The availability of new targeted therapies that offer complete remission - and for the first time ever a longer survival - is a significant advance and great news for these patients."
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of lymphoma which starts in the bone marrow where white blood cells (lymphocytes) are produced.(2) The most common type of leukemia to affect adults, CLL affects more men than women(3). According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there were 1,913 new cases and 541 Canadians died from CLL in 2006(4).
Rituxan is a therapeutic antibody that binds to a particular protein - the CD20 antigen - on the surface of normal and malignant B-cells. It then recruits the body's natural defenses to attack and kill the marked B-cells. Stem cells (B-cell progenitors) in bone marrow lack the CD20 antigen, allowing healthy B-cells to regenerate after treatment and return to normal levels within several months.
About Lymphoma Foundation Canada
Lymphoma Foundation Canada is the only Canadian charitable, not for profit organization that is dedicated to serving the Canadian lymphoma community. It focuses on all lymphomas including CLL, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, providing information on new treatment options, research and patient education events to help the lymphoma community understand and partner in their care.
(1) Canadian Cancer Society. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia overview.
http://info.cancer.ca/E/CCE/cceexplorer.asp?tocid=66. Accessed May
(2) Canadian Cancer Society. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia overview.
May 20, 2010.
(3) Canadian Cancer Society. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia overview.
May 20, 2010.
(4) Canadian Cancer Society. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia overview.
May 20, 2010.
SOURCE Lymphoma Foundation Canada
For further information: For further information: please visit www.lymphoma.ca or contact: Sue Robson, Lymphoma Foundation Canada, (905) 822-5135, firstname.lastname@example.org; Jennifer Dolan, Edelman, (416) 979-1120 ext. 257, email@example.com