Pancreatic cancer - Promising Treatment for Deadly Cancer Blocked by Canadian Regulators
TORONTO, Aug. 19, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ - While innovations in health care are spurring extraordinary advances in the treatment of malignant tumours, progress has been limited when it comes to the world's toughest cancer. Pancreatic Cancer Canada is fighting to raise survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients through targeted investments in research, increased awareness and patient support, community activation and advocacy initiatives. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths for Canadians in 2020. It has an exceptionally low five-year survival rate of just 8%. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer means a 92% likelihood of death – a fact that has not changed significantly in over 40 years. Pancreatic cancer outcomes are worsening amid rising survival rates for most other cancers. Statistics show that 50% of those who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will die 4 months after diagnosis.
While new first-line treatments are becoming available to patients, disease progression after initial therapy is common, leaving patients with no options for further treatment, making it nearly impossible to halt the progression of this terrible cancer.
Significant therapeutic progress
In the modern era of cancer research, pancreatic cancer has proven to be among the most unyielding of adversaries. While advancements have been made in expanding our understanding of this cancer, the 5-year survival rate has not changed materially in the past 40 years, and nearly all diagnosed patients ultimately succumb to the diseasei.
Today, with positive results of a large Phase 3 clinical trial NAPOLI-1 with ONIVYDE (irinotecan liposome), some hope is possible. An innovative pancreatic cancer treatment, it has been shown to extend patients' overall survival by 45% while maintaining the quality of life for pancreatic cancer patients.
Onivyde is already funded in a number of countries and is recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's (NCCN) international guidelines. Onivyde has also recently received a fast-track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a first-line combination treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer.
An innovative treatment unavailable in Canada
In 2017, Health Canada granted regulatory approval of PrONIVYDE® (irinotecan liposome for injection) for the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer, in combination with standard chemotherapy medications, in adult patients who have disease progression following first-line treatment.
It is now more than three years later and this drug is still not available in Canada despite receiving positive recommendations from the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (pCODR) and the Quebec Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS).
Given the slow progress against this disease, one must ask the question, 'Why are our regulatory authorities waiting to fund the only new drug approved recently by Health Canada that has shown promise in pancreatic cancer?'
Pancreatic Cancer Canada (PCC), believes it is time for Canada to catch up to other countries in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and adds its voice to those of patients and doctors across the country who have already articulated their support for the funding of PrONIVYDE® directly with pCODR and INESSS, and continue to demand that this medication be reimbursed as soon as possible. We have a clear expectation that the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) fulfill its mandate to negotiate drugs approved by Health Canada and to rapidly establish public funding across Canada.
"Pancreatic Cancer Canada is very concerned by the delay in making approved medications for pancreatic cancer available to Canadians – delays that are costing patients their lives. We urgently request that provincial representatives on the negotiating committee amend their processes to prioritize the survival of pancreatic cancer patients over administrative needs. This system of delays and blocked access threatens to discourage critical research efforts, as well as significant investments by pharmaceutical companies who bring viable treatment options to our patients."
Michelle Capobianco, Chief Executive Officer, Pancreatic Cancer Canada
"Canada needs to catch up with other industrialized countries and provide options for patients progressing from their first-line treatment. Introducing new treatment options in Québec would provide the oncology community with new tools to help patients continue in their fight against this devastating disease."
Petr Kavan MD, PhD, Medical Oncologist, Segal Cancer Center Jewish General Hospital
"PrONIVYDE® offers patients a chance at better outcomes, through demonstrated efficacy in treating metastatic pancreatic cancer. There is a treatment within our reach to prolong the survival of patients without compromising their quality of life, and it's important that we make it accessible and without any further delay."
Rebecca Prince, MBBS, FRACP, MSc, Medical Oncologist, University Health Network
"My husband did not live long enough to see a treatment developed that could save him. Pancreatic cancer patients today do not have the luxury of time. That is why we are asking for an end to the senseless delays in bringing promising drug treatments to the market. It is unbearable to know that there is an approved drug at our fingertips that could extend the lives of our loved ones – and yet, we can't access it. This is not how we will improve, and ultimately end, this deadly cancer."
Joanne Furino, family caregiver
About Pancreatic Cancer Canada (PCC)
Pancreatic Cancer Canada is fighting to raise survival rates for the world's toughest cancer investing in targeted research, increased awareness and patient support, community activation and advocacy. We have taken on one of the world's deadliest cancers - a disease with virtually no progress in survival in the past 40 years and a 92% mortality rate. We are aggressively fighting it with investments in research aimed at greater understanding of this cancer and better treatment options. At the same time, we are working to educate physicians about faster diagnosis and with patients/families to support them as they face the realities of this cancer in their lives.