Nova Scotians to petition government to stop denying colorectal cancer patients the life sustaining medication Avastin

    HALIFAX, Dec. 6 /CNW/ - At 11:30-11:45AM, Thursday, December 6th, 2007,
in the Red Room at Province House two large petitions seeking government
funding for the colorectal cancer drug Avastin, will be presented. The
presenters are Denyse Hockley, a young university student and mother from
Sackville and Mrs. Madeline Bolivar, a senior citizen from Bridgewater.
    The petitions will be presented to The Hon. Darrell Dexter, Leader of the
Opposition, with the request that he table them in the House when it sits at
noon and continue to request that the government do the right thing and make
this drug available to Nova Scotian colorectal cancer patients with advanced
    Madeline Bolivar, age 72, has spent the summer walking the Bridgewater
and other Lunenburg County communities and has gathered an overwhelming 3600
signatures requesting that the government fund Avastin.
    Mrs. Bolivar's son, Michael, in his early 40's has metastatic colon
cancer. His doctor recommended Avastin as part of his treatment.
Unfortunately, Michael who is a self-employed seasonal wood cutter and heavy
equipment operator must continue to work when he likely should be home resting
during his treatment. He still manages to provide for his wife and two young
children, but Michael cannot afford to pay for Avastin so his community has
rallied to help him with a fundraising walk-a-thon and other donations.
    Denyse Hockley, also met a young mother from lower Sackville by the name
of Judee Young who has metastatic colorectal cancer. Judee, a nurse, has an
eight year old son. Her oncologist has recommended Avastin as a means of
prolonging her life and among other things, giving her more time with her son.
Unfortunately she, too, lacks the financial ability to pay for Avastin and so
goes without it.
    This moved Denyse in late May to start a petition on-line at
    By the middle of June, Denyse had presented the first 1600 signatures she
collected to the Minister of Health, the Honourable Chris d'Entremont. Despite
the Health Department's decision during the summer not to fund Avastin, she
has kept her petition circulating and on Thursday will present the balance of
the over 3300 signatures she has obtained.
    According to Cancer Care Nova Scotia in any given year there are
approximately 100 Nova Scotians who should be receiving and possibly
benefitting from this life sustaining medication. But as the average course of
treatment costs approximately $35,000 the province refuses to fund this drug.
Only a handful of Nova Scotians who have the financial means receive it while
the rest must do without it.
    "It is the worst of two-tier health care. It starkly demonstrates the
unfairness of a system that allows one standard for the wealthy and a lower
standard for everyone else. Those who have the financial means to obtain the
drug will probably live longer while those who do not will probably die
sooner," says Jim Connors of Dartmouth.
    Connors, age 51 and a former energy executive, lawyer and alderman also
has advanced colon cancer and while he has paid for his own Avastin, as
prescribed by his oncologist, and not asked for assistance, he has been
working hard to address the needs of those financially unable to look after
    "If we lived next door in Newfoundland, Quebec or British Columbia, these
needs would be taken care of and we would only be concerned with the task of
dealing with our disease," Connors said. "It should shame our Premier and
Health Minister to know that the lack of funding for drugs like Avastin is
depriving Nova Scotian patients from prolonging their lives and others even
from possibly finding a cure."
    Quebec recently approved funding for Avastin after Nova Scotia turned it
down, Connors points out. Knowing the effectiveness of this medication, even
before it was approved in Quebec one hospital even offered the treatment to
its patients. "Despite the costs to the hospital drug budget the clinical data
supporting its use was compelling; it was the right thing to do. Now we will
be able to offer it to all patients with advanced colorectal cancer," said
Dr. Gerald Batist, Director of the Segal Cancer Center of the JGH in Montreal
and Chair of the Department of Oncology at McGill University when the
announcement of the approval was made in Quebec this October.
    In Nova Scotia the government of Premier Rodney MacDonald has refused to
fund Avastin in spite of having received advice from leading cancer
specialists as to its scientific soundness and that the medical standard of
care includes Avastin and access to it should be unrestricted.
    Letters from Mr. Connors to Premier MacDonald calling upon him to show
compassion and "do the right thing and approve this drug for Nova Scotians
before more lives are lost prematurely and unnecessarily" have gone
    As demonstrated by these petitions (as well as a poll conducted by the
Herald that also drew almost 3000 more names in support of funding Avastin)
almost 10,000 Nova Scotians have taken the time to let the government know
they would like the Government to fund this medication.
    "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).
    "The evidence is that this medication is effective and the failure of
provinces such as Nova Scotia to approve it represents a threat to all cancer
patients who require treatment in accordance with clinical treatment
guidelines," said Stein.
    Stein further added, "We are pleased however that Cancer Care Nova Scotia
is working very hard to prepare a plan for colorectal cancer screening for the
province and we believe that it will make a real and important reduction in
the colorectal cancer mortality rate in Nova Scotia once the plan is
implemented. However, we must not ignore or abandon those already touched by
the disease and who require this important medication to prolong their lives."


    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. It is also the
second leading cause of cancer deaths in Nova Scotia. 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 (800 in Nova Scotia)
Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and
approximately 8,700 (350 in Nova Scotia) 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 or call 1.877.50 COLON (26566), 514.875.7745,

For further information:

For further information: Jim Connors, (902) 463-6819, 4 Tremont Street,
Dartmouth,; Barry D. Stein, Colorectal Cancer
Association of Canada, Cell: (514) 944-0200,,
(514) 875-7899, or (514) 875-7745

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Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

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