The fall has definitely arrived across Canada (we won’t talk about the snow in Alberta and BC), but don’t let the cooler weather fool you. The UV index can still be high in spring and fall, and anything above a UV index of 3 requires sun protection. You can check out the UV index where you live daily at the Government of Canada’s website (https://weather.gc.ca/forecast/public_bulletins_e.html?Bulletin=fpcn48.cwao), or through the Weather Network (https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca ). Know your skin, check your skin monthly and know your risk factors. Make sure you a covering up, seeking shade and wearing sunscreen. Check out and share our video
Speaking of our fleeting summer….Our summer camps education program enrolled over 160 camps this summer, providing education and awareness for more than 100,000 youth at summer camp, making it our best year to date. We are grateful for the ongoing financial support from Douglas Wright Foundation, to make this a very successful year.
On the drug access and clinical trial front, we continue to make strides for patients across the country. Once again my thanks goes out to all of you that have provided input for our drug access submissions to pCODR and INESSSS for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC – a common type of skin cancer which can spread and be deadly). We hope to have a positive recommendation from pCODR and INESSS (Quebec), by year end. In the meantime, Sanofi, the manufacturer of Libtayo (cemiplimab) is providing compassionate access to advanced and metastatic patients with cSCC. We have written the first full booklet in Canada on cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and it is being shipped to all major cancer centres and other health care providers across Canada. It is also available for download from our website.
Adjuvant Therapies for Stage III
Our efforts are paying back as adjuvant therapies for stage III patients continue to move through the approval process. On August 1st Keytruda (pembrolizumab) received a positive recommendation from pCODR (Pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review) for adjuvant treatment of stage III fully resected patients. It will now proceed to pricing negotiations and we are hopeful that this will proceed quickly so that it can be covered by the provinces. We also received a positive recommendation for the targeted combination therapy of Tafinlar & Mekinist (dabrafenib & trametinib), May 21st, and are awaiting price negotiations. Last March, Opdivo (nivolumab) received a positive recommendation for stage III patients, and the price negotiations are continuing with the provinces. On October 2nd, INESSS in Quebec announced coverage of adjuvant nivolumab and is the first province in the country. BRAVO Quebec! Individual private insurance plans may already provide coverage or coverage may be available through compassionate access. Please check with your oncology team or your insurance provider to determine your options. If you are having challenges with drug access, be sure to give us a call anytime (1-877-560-8035 and ask for Mary or myself, Annette).
Treatment for Unresectable Stage III or Metastatic Stage IV
We are very pleased that every province in Canada is now covering the combination therapy of Yervoy and Opdivo (ipilimumab and nivolumab) except for PEI. Often times the Maritime Provinces are last to provide provincial coverage, but we were surprised and disappointed that the government of PEI has elected not to provide coverage of this life saving combination therapy. We are in communication with the Province to review the issue and hopefully seek a reversal of this decision. Patients across Canada should have equal access to cancer treatment, in a timely and effective manner.
We have a full slate of activities and education events planned for the fall. Make sure and check our calendar on our website. On September 22nd, at sites across the country, we held our 8th annual Strides for Melanoma national walk. This is our largest fundraising event of the year. The vast majority of our funding is from this one event, which helps us keep the lights and phones operating. The walk funds our award-winning patient programs and resources; helps MNC fund research and allows us to lead the charge for patient treatment and coverage for drug therapies. We think this is critical, and we hope you do too. The work never stops for us. If you weren’t able to participate, it is not too late. Please help visiting our website and making a donation. Every dollar counts and helps to ensure melanoma patients count. While there is still a way to go to conquer this disease – we all need to be part of the solution!