Cancer-fight advocates welcome $260M federal strategy

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Brent Schacter (c) CBCA new $260-million federal strategy to fight cancer will help patients get the best care, the research chair of a new agency overseeing the plan said Friday.

Cancer researcher Philip Branton spoke after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Montreal that the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer will be a "clearinghouse" for the latest information on care.

The Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control Research Action Group will work on access to cancer prevention and treatment.

"Cancer is not one disease; it's a couple of hundred diseases," Branton told CBC Newsworld. "It requires much more individualized treatment. This will help us get there."

The group will examine treatment guidelines and the latest developments, and share the information with cancer caregivers.

Branton is the scientific director of the federally funded Institute of Cancer Research and a biochemistry professor at McGill University in Montreal.

"This whole effort is really a knowledge translation effort. It's to try to translate what we know and what we're learning into better care, better prevention, better treatment and better diagnosis," said Branton.

Cancer rates are not increasing, but the number of cases is rising because the population is aging, experts say. The new federal strategy aims to try to control it, Branton said.

Support group founder sees hope

One cancer survivor pleased with the announcement is Geoff Eaton of St. John's. He told CBC News Online that the fact the government is committed to the strategy and it is going forward is constructive.

"I don't think this solves the problem of cancer in Canada by any stretch, but I think it is a very good step forward," said Eaton, who survived two bouts of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, at ages 22 and 25. He also started RealTime Cancer, a support group and charity for young adults with the disease.

Eaton said it's troubling that people with the same cancer diagnosis may have different treatments depending on where they live in Canada. The costs of travelling for treatment, accessing medications and loss of income are other issues.

"One of the biggest issues I have with the Canadian health-care system in general is that it is not patient focused. It is cost-containment focused. It is system focused."

Success stories abroad

Similar strategies have been implemented in the United Kingdom, across Europe, and in Australia, and have shown significant decreases in the number of cancer deaths, and the number of new cancer cases, said Dr. Barbara Whylie, chief executive officer of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Dr. Brent Schacter, CEO of the Canadian Association of Provincial Cancer Agencies in Vancouver, also welcomed the announcement, noting that in the UK, the strategy also reduced wait times.

"I'm absolutely exhilarated that the federal government has shown ...vision and leadership," Schacter said. "It is really a signal event."

The unique platform of the partnership includes patients and survivors, cancer agencies, and aboriginals on its board of directors, Schacter said. The arms-length body will be responsible and accountable to the federal minister of health.

The Canadian Cancer Society says 153,000 new cases of cancer are expected in Canada this year, and there will be more than 70,000 cancer-related deaths.

source - CBC 

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