The BC Cancer Foundation has received a record-breaking $18.3-million anonymous donation.
“It is the largest donation in the BC Cancer foundation’s history,” said CEO Sarah Roth at a news conference in Vancouver on Wednesday. “The second largest donation to cancer in our province and one of the largest donations to cancer in our country.”
The funding will be used to expand care for people suffering from metastatic cancer.
“This gift will create a new program at BC Cancer called the molecular imaging and therapeutics program,” Roth said.
“This game-changing program will bring lifesaving solutions to people who are facing an incurable cancer, where there is little to no hope.”
BC Cancer projects that more than 28,000 people in B.C. will be diagnosed with cancer in 2019, a number that is expected to grow to nearly 40,000 by 2031.
Dr. Francois Benard, who will lead the new initiative, said the donation will build on the work of the functional imaging program, which has already provided scans to 72,000 British Columbians over the past dozen years.
“It will support infrastructure, a scale-up of activities, scientific development of radioactive isotope treatments and launch a series of clinical trials,” Benard said.
According to BC Cancer, the new therapies will be especially helpful for prostate and thyroid cancer, neuroendocrine and liver tumours, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and bone metastases and other diseases.
The funds will be used to further develop “smart drugs” that can both detect and treat cancer by specifically honing in on affected cells.
He said because the radiation used in smart drugs is injected systemically, the treatment will reach everywhere in the body and can be used to treat metastatic cancer instead of localized cancer.
Metastatic cancer has long been considered more deadly and harder to treat than cancer that hasn’t spread, he said.
Although the new treatment was still experimental and “not a miracle cure,” Benard said, it offered hope to patients who before had no real treatment options available.