Already the world’s biggest health crisis, cancer rates are expected to rise by 35% in B.C. over the next decade. But advances in research and treatment being developed right here in B.C. — and a historic $500 million campaign to transform cancer research and enhance care for all British Columbians, in which we can all play a part — give reason for hope.
How can British Columbians take on this crisis? Together. We need to invest in our scientists and clinicians, helping our province attract and retain talent. We need to fund innovation, deepening our global understanding of cancer and uncovering new treatment options. And we need to accelerate access to these cutting-edge treatment options to all British Columbians, close to home.
This is why the BC Cancer Foundation has launched the $500 million Beyond Belief fundraising campaign— the most ambitious, comprehensive and crucial health fundraising campaign in the history of B.C.
Much has changed in cancer care in the past century. While BC Cancer’s Vancouver centre still stands on the same land today as it did when it first opened its doors in 1938, very little else has remained the same. What started as a renovated home just off West Broadway with a staff of three has evolved into six cancer centres that span B.C., forming Canada’s only province-wide cancer care network, in which 3,000 staff provide care for 80,000 British Columbians a year.
Just as our services, capabilities and impact have flourished, so too has our global knowledge of cancer, with BC Cancer researchers at the forefront of some of the most important advances in cancer prevention, detection and treatment:
- Developing a first-of-its kind test which uses just a tablespoon of blood and provides doctors unprecedented insight into patients’ cancer make-up — increasing the opportunity to select more personalized treatment options.
- First in the world to create an “in-house” Genome Sciences Centre (GSC) which uses whole genome analysis to inform treatment of patients with advanced cancers — of the 1,400 patients enrolled in its flagship Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) program, 86% have yielded actionable results.
- Discovering a life-saving new prevention strategy for ovarian cancer, opportunistic salpingectomy (OS), which removes the fallopian tubes, where ovarian cancer often originates, and is now used world-wide.
Scientists have learned more about cancer in the last two decades than in all the preceding centuries combined. We’re in a golden age in cancer research, with global collaboration driving incredible leaps in science and technology on an almost daily basis.
But there’s still much more to learn, and a need to accelerate the speed of science from the lab to all patients across British Columbia.
For example, we are currently fundraising to expand the systemic therapy suite in Kelowna. The new space will not only expand BC Cancer – Kelowna’s ability to deliver chemotherapy drugs by 40%, but it will also bring more innovative clinical trials to the Interior — reducing the need for patients to travel to Vancouver for novel, lifesaving treatments.
But the reality is that one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. The rising prevalence of cancer is due to a combination of factors. A growing and aging population. People are living longer because of treatment advances. Added up the demand for cancer services in B.C. will increase by an estimated 60% in the next decade.
However, I have hope. Every day I have the pleasure of working with BC Cancer experts who are leading the way in breaking new ground in genomics, immunotherapy and precision radiation treatments. These advances will lead to prevention in high-risk families, better treatments with fewer side effects and ultimately enabling people to live longer and better with cancer, if not being cured. And the collaboration happening across our centres and partners means that all patients can benefit from this, no matter where they live.
If 40 years ago you had asked clinicians if some advanced lung cancers could be made manageable through a single daily pill, they would have said it was highly unlikely. But through advancements in genomics, it’s a reality in 2022. With this campaign, we’re striving to make these kinds of revolutionary treatments possible for all cancers.
We are on the cusp of real transformation, and the opportunity is ripe to take advantage of BC Cancer’s track record of making the seemingly impossible, possible. In order to do this we need to act now, and take control of a disease that affects us all — our families, our friends and our loved ones.
Time is of essence and we’re more motivated than ever to raise $500 million for BC Cancer to elevate cancer care for every British Columbian. The hard truth, however, is that despite substantial investment from the government, which funds the operation of our cancer centres, we need financial support from everyone in our province.
Right now, we have the opportunity to seize this moment together to activate our people, advance global innovation and accelerate access to cutting-edge treatments, close to home. If we work together, we can build a future — if not completely free from cancer, then free from the fear of cancer.