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Expanded access to CAR-T therapy for children with advanced leukemia and lymphoma in BC

Last week, the province announced the implementation of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) therapy as a standard of care in B.C. for both pediatric and adult patients.
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​​Pictured at the provincial announcement are: Mary-Jane Asrat, B.C.'s Premier David Eby, Abraham Asrat, and brothers Kai and Hugo Asrat.  

​​Cancer occurs in 1 in 350 children and adolescents, with 150 new children and adolescents younger than 17 years of age diagnosed annually in BC. The most common type of cancer in pediatric patients include leukemias, which account for over 30 per cent of cases. 

Each year, BC Children's Hospital provides care to thousands of children who have been diagnosed with cancer, including those in remission who require ongoing care. On Sunday, March 10, 2024, B.C.'s Premier David Eby, and Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, led a significant announcement that Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CAR-T therapy), will now be available in B.C. for children and adults diagnosed with certain types of advanced leukemias and lymphomas.

The event was attended by representatives from across the health system, including B.C.'s pediatric community-BC Children's Hospital's oncology leadership, BC Children's Hospital Foundation representatives, and a family with a very personal connection to this announcement. Mary-Jane (MJ) Asrat is a parent who has experienced the life-changing impact of CAR-T therapy.

 Speaking at the announcement, she recounted how BC Children's Hospital oncology team played a crucial role in her son Hugo's journey, 

 "Access to CAR-T was life-saving for our eight year old son, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. It has given him back his childhood - school, sports, play dates and time with family. We are thrilled that this innovative therapy will now be an option available to other children facing a similar journey and that it will bring hope to families from across BC."  

 Patient intake and assessment began in January 2024, with the first treatment administered to adult patients in March. During initial implementation, BC Children's Hospital expects to treat an estimated five children or youth per year, while Vancouver General Hospital aims to treat 20 adults over the same time period. 

The announcement was enabled by significant clinical research that came to fruition due to generous donations through BC Children's Hospital Foundation (BCCHF) and others. The Michael Cuccione Foundation (MCF) has been a long-time champion of CAR-T therapy and has partnered closely with BCCHF to advance clinical trials in this area. In 2019, MCF supported the first clinical trials of CAR-T therapy at BC Children's Hospital. Since then, 12 kids with relapsed, aggressive cancers have benefitted from this specialized treatment.

As a hospital community, we are committed to continuing to advance care and improve outcomes for every child who is receiving oncology care within B.C.


Pictured left to right: MLAs Brenda Baily and George Chow; Dr. Kim Chi, executive vice president and chief medical officer, BC Cancer; Adrian Dix, B.C.'s Minister of Health; David Eby, Premier of B.C.; Mary-Jane and Abraham Asrat, the parents of Hugo who accessed CAR-T at BC Children's Hospital; Sarah Roth, president and chief executive officer, BC Cancer Foundation; and Malcolm Berry, president and chief executive officer, BC Children's Hospital Foundation. In front are brothers Kai and Hugo Asrat.

BC Cancer; BC Children's Hospital; BC Children's Hospital Research Institute; cancer; Patient story
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