At the Alberta Cancer Foundation, we don’t just hope something good comes out of your investment. We make sure it does.

This year, more than 20,000 Albertans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer. Like you, we want to change the landscape for Albertans facing cancer and we share your urgency to improve outcomes for patients across the province.

Your dedication and generosity means we are able to invest in the brightest minds – researchers, oncologists, clinicians, and front-line care providers – to unlock solutions and provide the best patient-centred care possible. Thanks to you, we support early-detection initiatives, groundbreaking research, and enhanced care programs that will make the most significant impact with a direct line of sight to patients. And we know those investments will only matter if they can be translated into meaningful outcomes that benefit patients and their families.

None of this progress would be possible without your support.

Here are some of the ways you are making life better for Albertans facing cancer.

Reduce Cancer Risk

Alberta’s Tomorrow Project is the province’s largest health research project investigating why some people get cancer and others do not. Originating in 2000 in Alberta, it is now part of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project and has helped recruit 55,000 Albertans to participate in collecting data and biological samples so researchers can examine how lifestyle, genetics and the environment can influence the health of current and future generations. Examples of research studies include examining the correlation between healthy eating and physical activity in reducing risk, and looking at how socioeconomic conditions might contribute to the development of cancer. Donor support of this project will have a powerful impact on Albertans facing cancer now — and in the future.

Leverage: $19.2 Million – provincial and national grants

Detect Cancer Earlier

The earlier we detect and diagnose cancer, the higher the chance of survival. A revolution in how we detect cancer earlier is underway via liquid biopsies – examining a sample of blood and using it to find biomarkers of tumour cell DNA. This type of biopsy can be used to find cancer at an earlier stage, before a patient displays symptoms. Currently, there is no blood test that can detect breast to bone metastasis (the spread of breast cancer into the bone). The Alberta Cancer Foundation has invested in a breast cancer research team out of Calgary who has identified a number of genes, which can be detected in the blood and are associated specifically to bone metastasis. The goal of their research is to verify and examine these blood-based biomarkers in women who have faced breast cancer, to identify patients at risk for developing bone metastasis and even detect patients who have early bone metastasis before symptoms appear. This early detection initiative could mean that Albertans will be treated earlier with targeted treatment plans, resulting in better outcomes.

Leverage: $54,000 – university philanthropic support

In 2017, the Alberta Cancer Foundation partnered with Alberta Innovates and Dynalife to identify cancer detection and diagnosis technologies developed in Alberta that improve patient outcomes while simultaneously driving the growth of local companies. Since that time, two companies were selected to receive support to commercialize their technology.

The first is Edmonton-based company, Nanostics. It created ClarityDX Prostate — a reliable, non-invasive blood test that has the ability to identify prostate cancer, and reduce unnecessary biopsies and surgeries for patients. Nanostics is currently conducting its international clinical validation study so that it can bring this test to market. Based on the success of the study to date, they are also hoping to expand its diagnostic capabilities to test for other cancers including bladder and breast cancer. The second, Calgary-based company, Syantra, created Syantra DX Breast Cancer — also a blood test that has the potential to detect and change breast cancer screening protocol. They are currently completing initial clinical studies in Alberta, the UK, the US, and South Korea. The test will work with current breast imaging processes to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the diagnostic process. Syantra is on track to make the test available in Alberta in 2021.

Leverage: $3.3 Million from other funding partners and company investments

Treat Cancer More Effectively

Clinical trials help bring the treatments of tomorrow to those facing cancer today. For some, a clinical trial is the answer when all other options have been exhausted. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the Alberta Cancer Foundation supports all cancer clinical trials in the province, and the need for this program is critical to continue pushing the pace of progress in early detection, treatment and care. Clinical trials attract researchers to work on studies which will advance medical knowledge and bolster resources available for health-care professionals to diagnose patients sooner, treat cancer more effectively and offer more hope and options to Albertans. Currently, a significant portion of trials in Alberta are immunotherapy-based – using the immune system to attack cancer cells – and this has become a game-changing treatment option for many types of cancer. Thanks to you, we are learning more about its potential every day.

Total leverage since 2014: $217.8 Million — pharmaceutical industry revenue, reimbursed trial costs and cost of drugs

Radiation therapy is an ever-evolving field, and new techniques have been developed thanks to leading-edge technology such as the Linac-MR. Merging the imaging abilities of an MRI system with the treatment capabilities of a Linear Accelerator, this made-in-Alberta machine will mean doctors can see and treat cancer with radiation using real-time MR imaging. This technology will allow treatment doses to be increased, and the number of treatments required to be decreased. Alberta Cancer Foundation donors have allowed us to invest in the Northern LIGHTs program – a series of clinical trials that will use Linac-MR technology to improve cancer treatment and care for patients. By providing Albertans with access to state-of-the art treatment options, you are improving patient outcomes and care.

In Alberta, chemotherapy is typically delivered in a cancer centre. The Alberta Cancer Foundation has invested in a study that is looking at the feasibility of self-administered chemotherapy treatment for myeloma patients. This novel treatment option could significantly reduce time spent at the hospital and allow Albertans to safely receive treatment at home, improving patient and family quality of life.

Brachytherapy is the ultimate in precision oncology. This type of radiotherapy treatment has the ability to deliver the optimal dose of radiation by targeting the tumour in a more customized way. This novel approach reduces the toxicity of radiation, and improves patient quality of life. The Alberta Cancer Foundation has invested in a provincial brachytherapy program that will provide new and tailored treatment options to Albertans facing cancer while improving patient care. This program is also provincially coordinated, meaning all Albertans can access it no matter where they live.

Improve Quality of Life

Cancer can be impoverishing. Many cancer patients earn a reduced income or no income at all during treatment, and the costs of everyday living can add up. The Patient Financial Assistance Program (PFAP) offers financial relief for cancer patients in Alberta who are undergoing active treatment. Thanks to our donors, the Patient Financial Assistance Program eases the financial burdens of a cancer diagnosis so that patients can focus on what matters most – healing. Costs covered may include mortgage or housing payments, food, childcare, transportation and accommodation for patients receiving treatment outside of their hometowns. Last year, this program was accessed more than 6,000 times by almost 1,000 families across Alberta and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned that the need for this program is continuing to grow. Your support of this program helps to ensure cancer patients and their families do not need to decide between treatment and day-to-day expenses.

A cancer diagnosis can be followed by unique challenges and uncertainties. For those patients and families living in rural Alberta, navigating what is often a complex health-care system can add an additional layer of difficulty. The Alberta Cancer Foundation Patient Navigator Program, largely funded thanks to donors like you, aims to ease the cancer journey. It provides personalized support to rural Albertans by teaming patients with a registered nurse who has specialized oncology training to assist with medical, physical, practical and emotional challenges. Navigators can support patients in understanding a diagnosis, deciding on treatment options, or knowing what community supports are available and how to access them. Patients and families who have accessed this program report that navigators contribute to a sense of stability and security and, last year alone, 6,076 rural patients reached out to their local patient navigator.

Donors like you also helped to expand the navigation program for certain groups and populations with specific needs. The Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Patient Navigator Program helps to guide young adults (aged 15-29) through the often complex cancer system, and address their unique needs. The Indigenous Cancer Patient Navigator Program specializes in addressing the needs of Indigenous cancer patients and their families by applying the knowledge of First Nations care and culture within a cancer context.

Leverage: $1.5 Million – provincial funding

Fifty years ago, only one in four of those diagnosed with cancer survived, and as the goal was on acute treatment, there was little emphasis on survivorship or quality of life. Today, improved treatment options and better outcomes have also been coupled with a shift to addressing the whole person and their spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs. Your support means we can invest in ways to ease the cancer journey for patients by enhancing their care. The Alberta Cancer Foundation partners with the 17 Alberta Health Services cancer centres where world-class research, technology and personnel can help change the lives of patients and their families. Your support translates into investments such as reclining chemotherapy chairs, blanket warmers for patients during treatment, portable cardiac ultrasounds, vein finders, waiting area upgrades and specialized training for staff. Some of these are small but significant ways to bring comfort and care to patients across the province.

Research indicates that 30-70 per cent of Albertans diagnosed with cancer require access to non-medical support systems. Wellspring is tailored to create the best programs available to meet the psychological, emotional and educational needs of individuals and families living with cancer. Programs assist with matters such as stress management, health restoration and rehabilitation and successful transitions back into the workforce. After conducting pilot initiatives in rural areas, findings have indicated there is a significant demand to bring this type of supportive cancer care to rural communities. The Alberta Cancer Foundation has invested in an initiative that will bring Wellspring programs closer to home for rural Albertans facing cancer. Broadening the reach of this program and bringing supportive cancer care to patients and their families will help ease the cancer journey for all Albertans.

*LEVERAGE: Where donor dollars are used to attract additional funding from various partners, sources and industries.