Maisonneuve Rosemont hospital getting $50 million for cancer treatment centre
A Montreal hospital is getting $50 million to create a new cancer treatment centre.
Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette announced the creation of the Centre of excellence at Maisonneuve Rosemont Hospital, saying it will specialize in developing immunotherapies.
This is a relatively recent development in cancer treatment involving medications that train a person's immune system to attack cancerous cells.
In particular, the Maisonneuve Rosemont centre will focus on CAR-T cell therapy.
It's an expensive procedure, as Matthew Schreindorfer knows all too well.
The Laval man developed a rare form of blood cancer in 2014 called acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments in Quebec failed, so Schreindorfer raised more than $800,000 to pay for experimental CAR-T treatment, coupled with a bone marrow transplant, in the United States.
The treatment worked -- for a time.
With no detectable cancer in October 2015, Schreindorfer's doctors found the cancer had returned in December, and he has been in and out of treatment ever since.
He has been going to the United States for several treatments, but is now happy at the possibility of being treated at home.
"I'm on cloud nine, I'm very, very happy. I'm happy for myself and all future cancer patients," he said.
The federal government is contributing $15 million for the centre, while drug companies are contributing an additional $35 million.
"It's basically the missing piece of the puzzle. The labs were here, the expertise is here at Maisonneuve Rosemont, and it was just missing that investment from those companies to bring those drugs and these therapies to market," said Schreindorfer, adding that 90% of patients who undergo CAR-T therapy end up being cured of cancer.
Barrette said the hope is the investment from the pharmaceutical industry and federal government will lead to the production of new cancer drugs at a more affordable price.
"Forty per cent of all investments in health science is done in Quebec," he said. "But we've been lacking in the past a unit like this one, where you can translate the research into commercial products."
As for his disease, Schreindorfer will undergo a biopsy next week to determine the next phase of treatment.
Maisonneuve Rosemont's molecular biology lab director Lambert Busque praised the new treatment.
"So far in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, especially in the pediatric population, there have been a large number of cures of complete remission that are sustained," he said, adding that this is addition to the treatment not attacking non-cancerous cells as previous therapies have.