Sorry, you just have the wrong type of cancer

Despite all of the breakthroughs in kidney cancer treatment, for many patients kidney cancer is just the wrong cancer to get. If we could go back in time, we should all have arranged for the cancer to start somewhere else. Then we could get some treatment options.

Patients with kidney cancer in Canada currently have three ways to fund their cancer treatment:

  1. Through their provincial public drug program
  2. Through private drug insurance (may cover some of the costs, depending upon province and plan)
  3. Through personal wealth.

Those lucky patients with amazing private health insurance or personal wealth will likely have access to up to FIVE different types of treatment for their kidney cancer. (Five drugs are now Health Canada approved — Nexavar, Sutent, Torisel, Afinitor and Votrient). By taking the treatments sequentially, patients can add years of quality living — time with their families, to continue working, travelling and enjoying life.

Those unlucky patients without private insurance or personal wealth face a very different treatment scenario. Not a single province is funding second-line treatment for kidney cancer (let alone third, fourth, or fifth line).

How Do Other Cancers Compare?
We wanted to know whether this was true for other types of cancers, so we did some research. Of course, the details are slightly different in each province, but let’s take Ontario as an example:

  • Colorectal cancer: three lines of treatment are funded
  • Lung cancer: three lines of treatment are funded
  • Breast cancer: three lines of treatment are funded
  • Kidney cancer: fiirst line only (Sutent or Torisel or Interferon*)
    • *only if you took Interferon as your first line could you ever access Nexavar
      through the Exceptional Access Program. Interferon is a decades-old treatment
      that is no longer used as first-line treatment for kidney cancer. Some oncologists
      would say that it amounts to malpractice on their part to prescribe Interferon
      as first line, and still it remains the ONLY way mrcc patients in Ontario can
      access Nexavar.

    Clearly kidney cancer is just the WRONG type of cancer to get.

    Governments want to see the data from large phase 3 trials to justify sequencing
    of these drugs. In truth, these trials for such a tiny market of cancer patients will
    take years — if indeed there is ever a good enough business need for industry to
    run these trials for small markets like Canada.

    What Can You Do?
    If this situation strikes you as fundamentally unfair, please get involved. We need to stand up for patients who otherwise cannot afford their second and third treatment for kidney cancer. It’s not their fault that they got the “wrong” kind of cancer and they shouldn’t have to pay with their lives.

    See our Join the Fight campaign or contact us at


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