CBCF: Herceptin for All Her2 Tumors

Response To Herceptin and Ontario Breast Screening Program Expansion

New developments on access to Herceptin and expansion of organized breast cancer screening program in Ontario

March 22, 2011

Hello,

Two events this past week prove that we can advocate and bring about changes together that will lead to improved breast cancer detection and more equitable access to breast cancer treatments.

Yesterday, Cancer Care Ontario announced that a recently launched Evidence-Building Program for cancer drugs approved OHIP coverage of Herceptin for eligible patients with HER2 positive breast cancer and tumours of all sizes. Until now, those diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer with tumours less than 1 cm in size were not eligible to receive the drug through OHIP.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region’s position is women diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer in Ontario should be eligible under OHIP to receive Herceptin. This position is based on scientific evidence that has proven Herceptin is effective in treating women with this type of breast cancer.

In March, Jill Anzarut put a human face on the issue of access to Herceptin for women with HER2 positive breast cancer in Ontario.

In the midst of a personal battle with HER2 positive breast cancer (caught as a tumour less than 1 cm), Jill advocated for prompt change to the province’s policy so that women in Ontario with smaller tumours could access the drug like women in other parts of Canada. Her tremendous strength, courage and unfailing determination help an estimated 100 each year in Ontario who can now benefit from this treatment.

We also applaud the breast cancer community including Rethink Breast Cancer Canada and the Canadian Breast Cancer Network for their efforts in supporting Jill along the way and for their leadership around this issue. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region was proud to participate with them and other organizations in important discussions leading up to yesterday’s announcement. We brought forward the issues and concerns that many of you shared with us over the last two months. Your voices helped to make all of our efforts stronger and we thank you for being a part of this important change.

We also congratulate the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for responding with timely action to ensure that all women in Ontario with HER2 positive breast cancer can now benefit from access to this treatment. The Province also confirmed on Tuesday, May 10 that $15 million will be provided over three years to expand the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) to include high risk women in the province’s organized screening program. Up to this point, only women aged 50 to 69 of average risk were eligible for OBSP screening, but now high risk women aged 30 – 69 can participate in the program and receive its benefits. This includes improved access to the highest quality of service in the province, reminder letters and follow-up if any abnormalities are found, as well additional services specifically for women of high risk (for example, genetic counseling and MRI screening).

We congratulate the government for taking this important step toward improving access to breast cancer screening for women in Ontario.

Expansion of the province’s organized breast cancer screening program for high risk women is good news as it means more women will benefit from the best service available. We believe our supporters deserve some credit for this achievement. Last year, we triggered dialogue when Bill 56 was introduced to allow average risk women starting at age 40 to be eligible to participate in the province’s organized breast cancer screening program. Our supporters responded to our letter-writing campaign to the Province, resulting in 13,000 pleas for the Bill to be passed. We congratulate everyone who participated in this collective effort to improve Ontario women’s access to breast cancer screening.

Almost 80% of women in Ontario are at average risk for breast cancer and scientific evidence demonstrates that lives can be saved when screening starts at age 40. We will continue to advocate for all average risk women starting at age 40 to be eligible to participate in the province’s organized screening program.

We do not expect Bill 56 to be passed by the time the legislature rises in June or before the Fall 2011 election. Yet, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region remains committed to working to ensure that average risk women aged 40 – 49 in Ontario have access to the best screening available.

We promised we would keep you updated on developments on the above issues, and we will continue to stay in contact with you. Please continue to share your ideas, opinions with us by emailing us at advocacy@cbcf.org. Thank you all for your continued support – it is valued and appreciated.

For details about the high risk program, please visit the announcement on the Ontario government’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s web site. Those interested in determining if they are at high risk for breast cancer are advised to speak to a health care provider.

Sandra Palmaro
CEO, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – Ontario Region