Message from the Chair Annette Cyr

Message from the Chair – December 2019

It has been an incredibly busy fall for the team at MNC. Heading into September, we had our 8th annual Strides for Melanoma walk. It was one of the most successful to date and we were thrilled to see so many new and returning supporters come out from coast to coast. We appreciate all of our sponsors and the volunteers that made it such a special day. Funds will contribute to research, essential patient resources, one-on-one mental health support and our advocacy efforts for drug coverage as well as our very important prevention and early diagnosis initiatives. Thanks to all.

MNC participated in several medical conferences in October, patient information sessions and patient conferences, providing representation, information and awareness of our services to the medical community and our patient community. We also hosted a webinar for medical professionals, to help increase and build knowledge on the latest treatment option for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma Information Session Hamilton 2019

With such a large and diverse country, many healthcare providers remain unaware of the services MNC offers specifically tailored for the melanoma and skin cancer patient community. If you think there is a need for resources in your community, hospital, or medical office, give us a call at 1-877-560-8035. We would be pleased to provide assistance and to give patients the information and support they need in a timely manner.

Update on Therapies

Adjuvant therapy – Stage III Patients: As of September, price negotiations with the provinces for adjuvant nivolumab (Opdivo) concluded. As of November 25th, only British Columbia and Quebec have listed this important treatment therapy. The remaining provinces have still yet to implement. It is so important that our patient community has access to this therapy for stage III patients and we urgently ask the remaining provinces to cover this therapy. Our concern is also that pharmaceutical company, Bristol Myers Squibb, have closed their compassionate coverage (extended free coverage) of adjuvant therapy as of November 15th, which is quite common after price negotiations have concluded. 

All current patients on therapy or prescribed as of November 15th will continue to have access, and in those provinces listing the therapy, patients will be transferred to the public plans. Any new patients after November 15th will no longer be enrolled under BMS compassionate access. We are concerned that if the remaining provinces do not move quickly to implement, we may have patients that will not have access to this treatment. If you would like to get involved in ensuring access in your province, contact us and help to ensure there is coverage for all patients going forward. Your voice counts. If you have private health insurance, please check with your oncology team and your provider to determine your eligibility. If you run into issues regarding access to treatment, please contact us. We will keep you up to date on our website for developments.

The combination of dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist) is now listed under the Quebec public drug insurance plan to prevent recurrence of melanoma (adjuvant therapy) following surgery for eligible melanoma patients with the BRAF V600 mutation. The combination use of the two Novartis cancer therapies as targeted treatment will be reimbursed for patients who meet specific criteria. Price negotiations continue for all other provinces and we hope that this will conclude shortly with an agreement.

We are also waiting for price negotiations to conclude for adjuvant use of pembrolizumab (Keytruda).  Keytruda received a positive pCODR recommendation in August, and it is now up to the manufacturer and the provinces to negotiate pricing and then accept and list the drug on the respective provincial drug formularies. Once again, check with your medical team and/or insurance carrier, if you have one, to see what is available in your particular case.

Metastatic Treatments: For patients with stage IV disease, therapies are generally covered in all provinces now, with the exception of Prince Edward Island (PEI). PEI remains the lone hold out, refusing to cover the ipilimumab and nivolumab combination therapy for metastatic patients. We will continue to challenge their reasoning and hope for a change of position in the New Year.

Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma: And finally, for patients with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, the new immunotherapy, cemiplimab (Libtayo) is still being offered on compassionate access through the manufacturer Sanofi. We are expecting the results of the pCODR review in December or early January. Providing there is a positive recommendation, price negotiations will start in the New Year, and we are hoping it will be covered and available sometime in 2020. We will keep you updated.

The holidays are now around the corner. It can be a particularly tough time of year for families facing a diagnosis and treatment or for those that have lost someone to this disease. Know that we are working to support you and we are hopeful that even more effective treatment and combinations are around the corner. Please call our office if you need someone to talk to or would just like to share your good news. 

Wishing you all the very best of the season and a healthy and happy New Year. I hope we can count on your financial support to keep us a strong and vibrant organization, and perhaps think about volunteering in 2020.  Make a difference in someone’s life!

Message from the Chair Annette Cyr
ANNETTE CYR Three-time melanoma survivor, Chair & Founder, Melanoma Network of Canada


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