Terminal cancer patient asks B.C. government to pay for newly approved treatment

Young made news in May after she was told to wait to see a doctor, despite dire diagnosis

Carol Young isn’t ready to accept that her cancer is incurable.

Young made news in May when she spoke out about delays in being able to secure a timely appointment with an oncologist in Abbotsford, despite having been told she had a month to live without treatment for her lung and brain cancer. After speaking to The News, Young was able to get an appointment, received some treatment and remains alive. She says she has been in relatively good health, although she can feel her cancer getting worse. Still, she hopes that she might be able to access new treatment options

Young, an accomplished Haida artist, is now asking the B.C. government to pay for a new form of cancer treatment now approved in the United States – but not Canada – to treat patients like her.

“I refuse to give up,” she says.

Young, who is now living in Langley, has written to Health Minister Adrian Dix asking for the government to fund immunotherapy treatment at a cancer treatment hospital in New York City. Young’s daughter lives in New York, so she accommodation costs would be minimized, but immunotherapy itself is hugely expensive. Costs have been pegged at $10,000 every two weeks.

But Young hopes that it would give her a shot at extending her life.

“Clinical trials in the U.S.A. are showing immunotherapy is extending and improving the lives of many cancer patients,” Young wrote in her letter to Dix.

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Young has small-cell lung cancer, a particularly deadly form of the disease.

For decades, treatment options for small-cell lung cancer have remained limited and most patients have died within a year. But a new immunotherapy drug called Keytruda was recently approved by the American Food and Drug Administration to treat patients like Young. But the drug is not currently approved for use in Canada for such patients.

Young hasn’t yet confirmed that she qualifies for treatment – she must first consult with a doctor in the United States, a process that itself costs thousands of dollars. But she told Dix that she hopes the government to cover the cost of treatment if she does.

Young also suggested it would be cheaper for Canada to quickly approve the drugs, rather than pay for residents to access treatment in the U.S.

In response to Young’s email, an assistant for Dix wrote back to confirm that the message had been passed along to the Ministry of Health. Staff at the ministry were asked to respond as quickly as possible to Young’s inquiry.

“I will be happy to continue working with you and your family as you move through treatment to ensure that we look at every possible option,” the staffer wrote. “My best wishes to you, Carol, on this difficult journey. You are truly an inspiration.”


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