PEI

Group advocating for pancreatic cancer drug to be used in Canada

A group which advocates for people with pancreatic cancer wants to see a new drug made available in Canada. 

Hoping story of Alex Trebek's battle with cancer raises awareness

'It's frustrating for me but it's also frustrating for many other people that are in the same category as I am,' says Teresa Doyle. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A group which advocates for people with pancreatic cancer wants to see a new drug made available in Canada. 

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died Nov. 8 — just over a year and a half after announcing he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Advocates are hoping he brings more awareness to the cancer, and they're pressuring the government to approve new treatments.

"He was a fighter just like me," says Teresa Doyle, an Island woman living with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. "I certainly was very sad for him and his family and it gives me all the more courage to keep fighting."

'I would love to know and love to be able to say I do have another choice,' says Teresa Doyle. (Submitted by Teresa Doyle)

Doyle was in Japan when she started feeling ill 11 years ago. She made it back to P.E.I. and was sent to Halifax, where a portion of her pancreas was taken out and tested.

"The told me at the time they were almost 100 per cent sure it was cancer," she said. "I was very fortunate, I had an excellent surgeon that helped me along the way."

The cancer went away — but it came back about a year and a half ago.

"I am going to go back into treatment again, possibly within the next couple of weeks," she said.

Group wants Canadians to access drug Onivyde

Craig's Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society aims to increase survival rates for pancreatic cancer and improve the quality of life for people who have it.

Stories of people like Doyle's and Trebek's are important, said Stefanie Condon-Oldreive, founder and director of the organization.

A second-line treatment serves as another option if a first treatment doesn’t work or stops working, says Stefanie Condon-Oldreive, founder of the Craig's Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society. (Craig's Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society)

"He certainly brought more awareness about pancreatic cancer, but there needs to be a lot more awareness. We need more research, and we certainly need more options to treatment and care," she said.

A drug called Onivyde has been recommended positively for pancreatic cancer patients, she said.

"We know, right now, it has been turned down by the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance which regulates costs. It approves drugs for funding," she said.

"Right now, we have a drug that is a second-line treatment pancreatic patients approved and recommended and used around the world — and right now Canadians can't access it."

2nd line treatment option

A second-line treatment serves as another option if a first treatment doesn't work or stops working, Condon-Oldreive said.

"I will take the first line first, but I would love to know and love to be able to say I do have another choice," Doyle said.

The first line of treatment worked the first time she had pancreatic cancer, but Doyle said this time around if it doesn't work she doesn't have another option.

"It's frustrating for me but it's also frustrating for many other people that are in the same category as I am," she said.

CBC News contacted the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance about Onivyde.

In a statement, the alliance said negotiations for the drug concluded without an agreement and that it can't speak to any details because of the confidentiality requirements of the negotiation process.

CBC News also reached out to Health PEI but didn't receive a comment.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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