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Cutting-Edge New Cancer Treatment Coming to B.C.

By October 26, 2018No Comments

The BC Cancer Foundation announced a historic $18.346 million philanthropic grant from the Aqueduct Foundation on behalf of an anonymous donor that aims to transform treatment for people facing metastatic cancer. The funds will fuel a world-leading Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics program at BC Cancer spanning research and development of cutting-edge radiopharmaceuticals through to clinical trials.

With the growth and aging of our population it is estimated that the number of new cancer cases in British Columbia will grow by a staggering 40 per cent over the next decade. Emerging research proves that radioactive particles can deliver drugs directly to the site of metastatic cancers, killing the cancer cells and saving the healthy tissue surrounding them.

“Today marks an important moment in cancer research and care in Canada with one of the largest donations ever made to bring new treatment solutions to patients. The $18.346 million is grounded in hope and science with an opportunity to save lives here in B.C., across the country and globe,” says Sarah Roth, president & CEO, BC Cancer Foundation.

The funds will establish BC Cancer’s Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics program under the leadership of Dr. François Bénard, BC Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging. Over the next five years, the program will expand its infrastructure, scale-up scientific development of radioactive isotope treatments and launch a series of clinical trials.

“We’ve been effectively using medical isotopes in cancer imaging for decades and to treat thyroid cancer. We have recently developed probes that bind specifically to cancer cells enabling us to apply this technology to treat many more cancers, notably prostate.

With these game-changing funds, our team at BC Cancer can address the urgent need to improve outcomes for thousands of people in our province who are diagnosed with incurable cancer each year, says Dr. Bénard.”

The first treatment trials will focus on radioligand therapy (RLT) for men with incurable, metastatic prostate cancer. Results from the first trials hold tremendous promise for the treatment of other common cancers, including metastatic melanoma, breast, ovarian, pancreatic and blood cancers. The targeted RLT compounds are developed at BC Cancer and in partnership with TRIUMF.

Seeing these cutting-edge treatments available to patients in B.C. was a mission for Daryl Clark, a North Shore father of three who endured three-and-a-half years of treatments for advanced prostate cancer. Before the disease took his life last June at 59 years old, Daryl sparked a movement among to bring this new treatment to B.C. Together, they raised more than $1 million through their network of family and friends and the Ride to Conquer Cancer. 

“Daryl would be so proud today. A gift of this magnitude will see that other families don’t lose loved ones to cancer in the prime of their life the way we have. While we desperately wish Daryl were here today to celebrate this moment, I find comfort in knowing that his vision is becoming a reality for others and new treatments are on the way,” says Joanna Clark, Daryl’s wife.

Different from chemotherapy, RLT is only delivered to the cancer cells packing a much bigger punch in a highly concentrated dose. Evidence for the effectiveness of RLT shows a clear benefit for prostate and thyroid cancer, neuroendocrine and liver tumours, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, bone metastases and other diseases. RLT is a cutting-edge form of cancer treatment that will add a much-needed new option to the ranks of chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy.

The BC Cancer Foundation is the fundraising partner of BC Cancer. Together with our donors we are changing the outcome for people affected by cancer in B.C. and beyond by connecting personalized care, innovative research and opportunities to contribute. We are the largest funder of cancer in B.C. and every dollar raised stays right here at BC Cancer to advance research, enhance care and break down cancer to benefit the people of B.C.



“For patients with advanced disease, tomorrow is too late. Today, new, cutting-edge treatment solutions for metastatic cancer are on the horizon for patients in British Columbia. With this philanthropic funding B.C. can bring life-changing solutions to the clinic.”

—Dr. Kim Chi, medical oncologist, BC Cancer

Radionuclides are unstable atoms that make up the world around us. Radionuclides emit energy, or “decay”, in order to become stable. The result of this decay is a range of radioactive emissions that can be used for a variety of purposes including cancer imaging (via radiotracers) and therapy (via radiopharmaceuticals).

Through BC Cancer’s Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics program, Dr. François Bénard and his colleagues will:

  • Trial effectiveness of a Lutetium-177-based targeted therapy in men with advanced metastatic prostate cancer;
  • Conduct clinical research studies into the effects of combining RLT with chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy;
  • Introduce new or improved pairs of radiotracers and radiopharmaceuticals for prostate cancer;
  • Develop and validate use of RLT for melanoma, breast, ovarian, neuroblastomas, pancreatic adenocarcinomas, and multiple myeloma or other cancers.