Colorectal Cancer - Avastin arrives in Saskatchewan - Remaining Provinces and Territories must Follow Suit

    TORONTO, Feb. 8 /CNW/ - While some provinces are still lagging behind,
the Saskatchewan government has recently made the right decision to join the
growing group of provinces providing their patients with the life-prolonging
cancer medication, Avastin (bevacizumab).
    On January 30, 2008 the premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, made good on
his promise for Saskatchewan to provide funding to their Cancer Agency for
Avastin in the treatment of patients with advanced colorectal cancer. The
premier promised to put patients first and strengthen cancer care for
Saskatchewan people.
    Saskatchewan's Health Minister, Don McMorris, said that offering another
option to patients with advanced colorectal cancer is the right thing to do.
Mr. McMorris was echoed by Saskatchewan Cancer Agency's CEO Bob Allen who was
very pleased with government's decision and noted that the addition of Avastin
in combination with chemotherapy provides an opportunity to prolong the life
of patients diagnosed with advanced disease.
    "We congratulate the government of Saskatchewan for taking this important
step and we are prepared to work with the government and Cancer Agency in any
way we can to achieve a reduction in the mortality rate from this disease,"
said Barry Stein, president of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada
    "This is great news and allows colorectal cancer patients to benefit from
some of the latest technological advances in the treatment of the disease.
Avastin represents a new wave of treatment for cancer patients in which cancer
cells are targeted directly. By embracing this new technology, we are
providing patients with the opportunity not only to prolong their lives, but
in some cases to qualify for surgery to remove the cancer altogether." Stein
    CCAC Saskatchewan spokesperson, Marj Rak, who lost her husband Terry to
the disease last June, worked hard to see the approval of Avastin in
Saskatchewan. "The approval of this medication means everything to colorectal
cancer patients who want to prolong their lives. Terry had an additional 16
months of quality time to spend with his family due to this medication. While
we had to pay for Avastin ourselves, we are so pleased that others in
Saskatchewan will not have to face the same difficulties we faced at the most
challenging period of our lives," said Rak.
    Saskatchewan joins British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Québec
in providing over 40% of the nation's population with access to this
life-sustaining medication-but where are the other provinces?
    Several provinces have yet to approve funding for Avastin. "This concerns
us greatly since not only are there patients who are not receiving optimal
treatment, but there is a sense of inequality developing across the country,"
said Stein.
    Colorectal cancer advocates in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario,
Manitoba and Alberta have been insisting on approval of Avastin for a long
time. In Nova Scotia, for example, colon cancer patient and advocate, Jim
Connors, has repeatedly requested that premier Rodney McDonald approve this
medication. "Why should Nova Scotians continue to die while Canadians in other
provinces are being given the opportunity to live?" said Mr. Connors.
    Mr. Connors paid for his own treatment with Avastin, but has advocated on
behalf of the many Nova Scotians with advanced colorectal cancer who need, but
cannot afford the drug. "Whether in Nova Scotia or anywhere else in Canada,
colorectal cancer patients with advanced disease must be given an equal
opportunity to prolong their lives," said Connors, emphasizing the CCAC's
position that all provinces should approve this medication.
    In a letter sent October 3, 2007 to premier MacDonald shortly after the
government of Québec approved funding for Avastin, Mr. Connors called upon him
to show compassion and "do the right thing and approve Avastin for Nova
Scotians before more lives are lost prematurely and unnecessarily". MacDonald
has never responded to the letter.
    On the eve of colorectal cancer awareness month, the CCAC is calling on
all provinces and territories that have not yet approved this important
medication for reimbursement, to do so immediately.


    About colorectal cancer

    Colorectal cancer - cancer of the colon or rectum - is the second-leading
cause of cancer death in Canada, surpassing both breast and prostate cancer in
    Though preventable, an estimated 20,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with
colorectal cancer this year, and approximately 8,700 are expected to die from
it. An almost equal number of men and women are affected by colorectal cancer.
    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 the CCAC

    The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada is a non-profit organization
dedicated to increasing awareness of colorectal cancer, supporting patients
and their families, and advocating for national screening and timely access to
medical treatments. Visit the CCAC's website for additional information on
colorectal cancer,, or call 1.877.50 COLON (26566).

For further information:

For further information: or to conduct an interview contact: Hilary
Christo, CCAC Communications,, (416) 920-4333,
ext. 27; Barry Stein,, (514) 944-0200, Jim Connors,
(902) 463-6819

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Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

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