Colorectal cancer at a crossroads in Canada


    TORONTO, March 5 /CNW/ - Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month comes at a
time when our Governments are facing the high costs of treating patients and
looking at primary prevention and screening as the cure to the escalating cost
of patient treatment.
    "We are at a crossroads in Canada where some provinces, such as Ontario
and Manitoba, are leading the way and have committed to bring in colorectal
cancer screening programs. Others, such as Alberta and British Columbia, are
on the verge of doing the same. However, other provinces lag behind and are
still only in the evaluation stages," said Barry D. Stein president of the
Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada (CCAC).
    There is a similar crossroads in patient access to effective treatment,
as newer biologics and small molecules are used in the targeted battle against
cancer; provinces are trying to determine whether or not they should cover
these treatments under their respective provincial formularies and whether or
not they form part of prescribed treatment guidelines.
    "While patients in some provinces are already fortunate enough to have
access to some of these new treatments, patients in other Canadian regions are
forced to either pay the high cost of these medications personally, if not
covered by insurance, or alternatively forego treatment altogether," said
    In British Columbia and Newfoundland and in one hospital in Quebec
patients have had the ability to access some of the newest medications
available in the treatment of colorectal cancer through the public health care
system. However, in the other provinces and territories patients have not been
so fortunate and some provinces have already elected to refuse or limit access
to these medications, while others are still reviewing them.
    "We are creating two-tier health care that allows one standard for the
wealthy and a lower standard for everyone else. With respect to Avastin, those
who have the financial means to obtain the drug will live longer while those
who don't will die sooner. It's as immoral as that," said Jim Connors,
colorectal cancer patient in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
    With very little fanfare and in what seemingly was a non-transparent
process, at least from a patient's perspective, all provinces with the
exception of Quebec and the territories have recently agreed to participate in
a one year pilot project for a national coordinated review of all new cancer
    The Joint Oncology Drug Review (JODR) process as it will be known, began
March 1, 2007 and will cover both IV and oral medications. In accordance with
the JODR manufacturers of oncology drugs will make a single submission for
review through Ontario's Committee to Evaluate Drugs (CED) and Cancer Care
Ontario (CCO) and it will be considered as a submission for all participating
provinces. The decision for coverage/reimbursement will however remain the
final decision of each province.
    "While we believe in the principles as set out in the National
Pharmaceuticals Strategy, it remains to be seen whether or not the JODR
process will actually improve equal and timely access to effective treatment
across Canada," said Stein. "Our fear is that this process has the potential
to limit access by approving fewer drugs across the board. If the process does
not take into account treatment guidelines and provinces decide not to follow
the recommendations, we may be faced with the continuation of variances across
the country."
    CCAC supports equal access to treatment, but not if it means lowering the
bar for treatment options to the lowest common denominator. The best interests
of Canadian patients should be served and this streamlined process should not
be used merely as a cost cutting measure.
    "Whatever happens, one thing is clear and that is that this year is
already the most remarkable year in which we are seeing more changes than ever
in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer and indeed cancer in
general," said Stein.

    March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

    This month the CCAC will continue to pursue its goals of
Awareness/Education, Support for patients and their families and the Promotion
of screening programs in Canada as well as timely access to effective
treatment for colorectal cancer patients.
    "March is an opportunity for Canadians to start talking and asking
questions about colorectal cancer," says Roslyn Fitzpatrick, colorectal cancer
survivor from Thornhill, Ontario. "My cancer was discovered early through
screening and I just received my five-year all clear from my oncologist. Speak
to your doctor about screening because if detected early, there is a better
chance for quicker treatment and overall survival."
    To this end the CCAC has already contributed to and hosted patient
information sessions across the country. In addition, the group will launch
national television commercials, print ads and distribute an informational
supplement to inform Canadians about colorectal cancer screening. As well,
physicians, clinics and hospitals and cancer centers across Canada will be
provided with awareness posters and information materials.
    In March, the CCAC will also host a healthy breakfast information session
in the parliamentary restaurant in Ottawa to inform Parliamentarians and
Senators about colorectal cancer as well as primary prevention, screening and
treatment of the disease.
    Additionally, in an effort to find solutions to the implementation of
screening and timely access to effective treatment, the CCAC will host the
first Canadian Round Table Conference in Montreal on March 28, 2007 in
partnership with the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC) (formerly the
Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control) and the Public Health Agency of Canada
    "It's always a good time to find out more about colorectal cancer. We
welcome all Canadians, patients, family members or those interested in their
health, to contact us for more information or to become a volunteer," said
Stein. To contact the CACC, call 1-877-50COLON or visit


    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 20,000 Canadians were
diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year, and approximately 8,500 died in
2006. 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. For more
information or to volunteer, please visit or call the
toll-free info line at 1-877-50COLON.
    Visit the CCAC's website for additional information on colorectal cancer

For further information:

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,, (514) 875-7745,
(416)920-4333; Alia Hassan, Cohn & Wolfe, (416) 924-5700 ext. 4055,

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Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

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