We live in an exciting time where science is becoming more and more capable of solving some of our most pressing issues. Cancer being one of the biggest problems, where approximately one in two Canadians are likely to develop cancer in their lifetime. Still startling, despite all of this scientific advancement is that one in four will die from the disease.
Simply put, you or someone you know will likely get cancer in their lifetime.
Traditional cancer therapies include things you have likely already heard of like: surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy. More modern treatments include things like immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Immunotherapy works by using the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. Targeted therapy works by interfering with tumour cell proliferation. Targeted therapy is different from something like chemotherapy which works by killing tumour cells instead of stopping proliferation.
New third wave therapies are more expensive and sophisticated therapies for treating cancer, which include gene and cell therapies. These therapies can consist of modifying the genes of T cells in the immune system to better recognize cancer cells, similar to immunotherapy. A way scientists have been able to modify the genes of our immune system is through a gene editing tool called CRISPR.
CRISPR stands for: Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. CRISPR was developed from a defence mechanism found in certain bacteria, where the bacteria would capture snippets of DNA from intruders like viruses and store them in segments called CRISPR’s. If the virus tried to attack again, the DNA segments help an enzyme find and slice up the intruders DNA.
Scientists have since been able to use this defence mechanism to create a gene editing tool which is used to modify the genes of immune cells to better recognize and destroy cancers. This has the potential to create safer and more effective cancer treatments in the future.
What does this have to do with your benefit plan?
Your employees will be looking to their private plans for answers when these medications are not covered under provincial coverage. Forewarned is forearmed and strategic planning is key for these kinds of additional costs.
Canadian Cancer Statistics, Publication, Canadian Cancer Society, 2020
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