Ottawa, Ontario, June 6, 2011 – On June 1st,  the national drug-review agency, the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (pCODR), announced it is recommending that provinces and territories should consider paying for the skin cancer drug Zelboraf (Vemurafenib) for the treatment of skin cancer patients whose melanoma has spread from the skin to other organs of the body.  

“This past week’s ‘Final Recommendation’ announcement from pCODR is good news for melanoma patients in Canada,” said Christine Jackson, Executive Director of the Canadian Skin Patient Alliance (CSPA). “There are new biologic drugs for melanoma still in the pipeline, such as abrafenib and trametinib, which were successful in recent Phase III human trials. We call on pCODR to move just as quickly as in recommending these future drugs they have for Zelboraf this week”.
Until now, there has been no approved treatment for advanced melanoma in Canada that had a positive impact on survival for metastatic patients. Zelboraf, joins the melanoma treatment Yervoy (Ipilimumab) which received final recommendation on April 18th. Zelboraf and Yervoy are the only new advanced melanoma treatments to be developed in over a decade. An estimated 5,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and 950 will die from it. Melanoma is responsible for 75 percent of the deaths associated with skin cancer. Melanoma is clearly visible on the skin, and 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV light, including tanning beds.

Unlike traditional chemotherapy which puts toxins into the body to kill cancer, Zelboraf works by slowing down or stopping the growth of cancer causing cells with the BRAF gene which drives the development of cancer in about 50% of malignant melanomas. A test can establish which patients possess the gene and are suitable for treatment. Both drugs are for patients who cannot use other systemic treatments or whose cancer has not responded to other systemic treatments. Yervoy works by stimulating the body’s immune system to find and kill cancer cells.

The CSPA is a national umbrella organization which includes the affiliated skin cancer organizations Alberta Melanoma Society, Save Your Skin Foundation, and the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation. “Most patients with advanced melanoma now live less than a year,” said Tanny Nadon, Secretary Treasurer of the Melanoma Society of Alberta. “Today’s news is the hope the melanoma community has been waiting on for years,” said David Barnard,  Executive Director of the Save Your Skin Foundation, whose mom has been battling this disease since 2003. Leona Yez, Executive Director of the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, added "We are hopeful that the provinces and territories will now put the emphasis on treatments for melanoma and make these two medications available to patients as soon as possible.”

On January 25th, the CSPA  launched Skin Deep: A Report Card on Access to Dermatological Care and Treatment in Canada. In it, the CSPA called on governments to step up to the plate by immediately providing access to life-saving treatments once they are recommended by pCODR.

Founded in 2007, The Canadian Skin Patient Alliance (CSPA) is a by patients-for-patients, resource and community for all skin patients living with a skin conditions and disorders.  As a national umbrella organization for Canadian not-for-profit patient groups and organizations that deal with skin conditions and diseases, the CSPA is an important hub of skin-health-related information in Canada. As an advocate for awareness, education, research and access to appropriate care, the CSPA represents the voice of the millions of skin patients and their families.

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For additional information please visit www.canadianskin.ca.


Ms. Helen Crawford, Media Liaison                                                                                               
Canadian Skin Patient Alliance
Toll Free Phone: 1-877-505-2772
Office: 613-440-4260
Cell: 613-299-0878             

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