Three New Cancer Drugs Now Available In Ontario



    McGuinty Government Investing $50 Million To Improve Treatment Options

    TORONTO, July 2 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    Ontario is investing $50 million to give cancer patients better treatment
options with three new drugs - including Avastin for the treatment of
colorectal cancer.
    $30 million over the next three years will fund Avastin, a groundbreaking
drug that works by cutting off the blood supply specifically to cancerous
tumours rather than affecting all the cells in the body. Clinical trials have
shown that Avastin is most effective when used as the initial treatment for
advanced colorectal cancer.
    The average length of survival for patients who receive Avastin in
combination with other chemotherapy treatments is close to 2 years, compared
to 15 months for patients who do not receive Avastin as part of their therapy.
    Ontario is also providing approximately $20 million in funding over the
next three years for Sprycel to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia and Alimta
to treat non-small cell lung cancer. Sprycel and Alimta both provide new
options for patients who have not had success with initial cancer drug
treatments.

    QUOTES

    "This is all about improving treatment options for Ontarians who are
suffering from cancer," said David Caplan, Minister of Health and Long-Term
Care, "The McGuinty government is committed to funding new and innovative
cancer drugs, and we're determined to get more Ontarians screened and tested
as early as possible."

    "We are committed to improving access to therapies that have proven
medical benefits," said Helen Stevenson, Assistant Deputy Minister and
Executive Officer of the Ontario Public Drug Programs. "Many patients in
Ontario will benefit from the availability of Avastin as first-line therapy
through our publicly funded drug programs. We continue to be transparent in
our decision-making and ensure that all of our decisions have clear, clinical
outcomes to support them."

    "For Ontario patients with advanced colorectal cancer, today's
announcement is great news," said Dr. Jim Biagi, Academic Oncologist, Cancer
Centre of South-eastern Ontario and Co-Chair, Gastrointestinal Cancer Disease
Site Group, Cancer Care Ontario. "Patients now have access to Avastin, a
therapy that when added to standard chemotherapy can improve their outlook"

    QUICK FACTS

    
    -   Ontario has invested $53 million in colorectal cancer drugs over the
        past three years.
    -   Colorectal cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Ontario with
        3,250 deaths a year. Each year, 7,800 people are diagnosed with
        colorectal cancer. Regular screening is vital because there are no
        early warning symptoms of the disease, which develops from tiny
        growths inside the colon or rectum called polyps.
    -   Ontario has created a province-wide screening program called
        ColonCancerCheck (http://coloncancercheck.ca/) in collaboration with
        Cancer Care Ontario. Through the program, eligible Ontarians can
        obtain a take-home colorectal cancer screening kit from their health
        care provider or by contacting the Ministry of Health and Long-Term
        Care's INFOline at 1-866-410-5853.

    LEARN MORE

    For more information on Avastin, visit the Ministry of Health and
Long-Term Care (http://www.health.gov.on.ca/).

    Learn more about Ontario's Colon Cancer Check
(http://coloncancercheck.ca/) initiative.

    Visit Cancer Care Ontario (http://www.cancercare.on.ca/english/home/)
online.

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    BACKGROUNDER
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              ONTARIO INVESTS $50 MILLION IN THREE CANCER DRUGS
    

    Ontarians living with advanced colorectal cancer will now have access to
Avastin as a first-line treatment. Ontario will provide more than $30 million
in funding over the next three years through the Ontario Public Drug Programs
(OPDP) to make Avastin publicly available. Avastin will be used as the first
treatment option in therapy for advanced colorectal cancer in Ontario.
    Ontario will also provide approximately $20 in funding over the next
three years for Sprycel to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia and Alimta to
treat non-small cell lung cancer.

    AVASTIN

    Clinical trials have shown that Avastin is most effective when used as a
first-line treatment for advanced colorectal cancer. The average length of
survival for patients who receive Avastin in combination with other
chemotherapy treatments is close to 2 years, compared to 15 months for
patients who do not receive Avastin as part of their therapy.
    Initially, Ontario will fund 12 cycles (treatment for 6 months) of
Avastin. Four additional cycles (treatment for 2 months) will be funded if the
patient's disease has not worsened.
    Avastin will not be funded as a second-line therapy. Clinical trial
results have only shown an improvement of less than 2 months. In addition, the
manufacturer of Avastin does not have Health Canada's approval for Avastin in
second-line use, nor did the manufacturer submit a request for funding to the
Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (ministry) for second-line therapy. If
the manufacturer submits new evidence supporting the use of Avastin for other
types of therapy, or in combination with other chemotherapy regimens, it will
be reviewed by the ministry's expert committee, the Committee to Evaluate
Drugs.
    First-line treatment refers to the medical therapy that is used for the
initial treatment of a disease. Second-line treatment refers to the medical
therapy that is used when the initial treatment (i.e., first line treatment)
has either failed (disease progresses despite treatment) or has become
intolerable.

    TREATMENT FOR COLORECTAL CANCER IN ONTARIO

    Since October 1, 2006, Ontario has increased access to drugs for
colorectal cancer. Over the past three years, $53 million has been invested
through Ontario's public drug programs to provide patients suffering from
colorectal cancer with the treatments and therapies they need.
    With the addition of Avastin, Ontario provides the following first-line
and second-line treatment options for advanced colorectal cancer:

    
    First-line treatments
    -   Avastin + FOLFIRI (an irinotencan-based) chemotherapy regimen
    -   FOLFOX (an oxaliplatin-based) chemotherapy regimen
    -   FOLFIRI chemotherapy regimen
    -   5-Fluorouracil and leucovorin chemotherapy regimen
    -   Raltitrexed single agent
    -   Capecitabine single agent

    Second-line treatments
    -   FOLFOX chemotherapy regimen
    -   FOLFIRI chemotherapy regimen
    -   Irinotecan single agent
    

    In the near future, the ministry intends to require K-RAS oncogene
testing. K-RAS is like a genetic test that will help to identify those
patients more likely to benefit from third-line treatment of advanced
colorectal cancer. Third line treatment refers to medical therapy that is used
when initial treatment (e.g., first-line treatment) and second-line therapy
have failed (disease progresses despite treatment). The ministry will provide
more details on this initiative soon.

    ALIMTA

    The ministry has also approved funding for Alimta under the New Drug
Funding Program (NDFP) for patients in Ontario who require chemotherapy as
second-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Alimta has proven to be
as effective and better tolerated in many patients than docetaxel, a
chemotherapy drug that is routinely used for the second-line treatment of
non-small cell lung cancer.
    The funding of Alimta will provide a treatment option for patients with
lung cancer who have not had success with first-line chemotherapy treatment.

    SPRYCEL

    Sprycel has also been approved by the ministry for funding under the
Exceptional Access Program for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia
(ALL) for both adult and pediatric patients who did not respond to previous
treatment regimens for ALL.

    ONTARIO'S TRANSPARENT DRUG SYSTEM FOR PATIENTS ACT

    In 2006, Ontario passed the Transparent Drug System For Patients Act to
improve patient access to drugs. The government's reforms included a rapid
review process for new drugs and the ability to negotiate agreements with
manufacturers. Together, these have enabled faster drug funding decisions.
This means that Ontario patients now receive more timely access to effective
new treatments such as Avastin. Since the Act was introduced (up to
December 31, 2007), 142 new individual brand name drug products are now
funded, of which 31 are specifically for cancer indications.

    
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For further information:

For further information: Mark Nesbitt, Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care, (416) 314-6197

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