Life-saving cancer therapy now being provided in British Columbia (

Media Contacts

Bhinder Sajan

Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier

Ministry of Health

250 952-1887 (media line)


Providing better access to Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) therapy for B.C. cancer patients

As part of B.C.’s 10-year cancer-care action plan, the Province will deliver CAR-T therapy at Vancouver General Hospital and BC Children’s Hospital.

Leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, and lymphoma, a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, can impact both children and adults.

CAR-T therapy is a form of immunotherapy that has become a life-saving cancer treatment option for the treatment of refractory or relapsed large B-cell lymphoma in adult patients and acute B-cell lymphocytic leukaemia in pediatric and adult patients, when primary cancer treatments have been unsuccessful.

CAR-T therapy begins with the collection of a patient’s white blood cells. The patient’s collected cells are then genetically engineered to express a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR), which hard-wires them to recognize a protein on cancer cells. The CAR-T cells are infused back into the patient’s bloodstream. Once circulating in the bloodstream, the CAR-T cells are able to recognize and kill cancer cells throughout the patient’s body.

Previously, eligible patients living in B.C. were referred to out-of-province/country cancer clinics to undergo CAR-T therapy. Providing standard-of-care CAR-T therapy in this province will help increase access and ensure eligible patients can receive the care they need in B.C.

Investments in cancer care in British Columbia

Budget 2024 provides an additional $270 million over three years to make progress in delivering on the B.C.’s 10-Year Cancer Action Plan.

Building on the Province’s recently announced cervix self-screening program and extended eligibility for free, publicly funded vaccines to males born in 2005, the additional funding is expected to increase HPV vaccine coverage and help increase participation in cervical cancer screening. This will be achieved by increasing the number of school-based HPV vaccination clinics, increasing the number of out-of-school vaccinations offered within pharmacies, having a robust cancer-prevention and health-promotional campaign and providing additional outreach to those that may have barriers to vaccination.

A key pillar of strengthening cancer care is ensuring B.C. has a successful health-care workforce. Budget 2024 will help with the recruitment of cancer-care positions through the creation of additional seats in post-secondary programs for difficult-to-recruit positions.

Recent cancer-care investments throughout B.C.

The Province’s commitment to eliminating cancer has resulted in more than $1 billion in investments since 2017 to support the creation of a strong and sustainable cancer-care system in B.C., including:

  • In September 2017, the Province expanded the publicly funded HPV vaccine program in British Columbia through a school-based program to include Grade 6 children.
  • In December 2017, in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation BC, BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and BC Cancer, the Province announced an Indigenous cancer strategy to improve cancer care and supports for Indigenous Peoples throughout B.C.
  • In July 2019, the Province announced the third publicly funded PET/CT scanner in B.C. and the first to be located in Victoria and outside of the Lower Mainland.
  • In November 2019, the Province launched a 10-point Youth Vaping Provincial Action Plan to address the rise of youth vaping.
  • In 2020, BC Cancer Research became a formal UBC (University of British Columbia) senate-approved and Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA)-approved research institute.
  • In August 2020, the Province announced the fourth publicly funded PET/CT scanner in B.C.
  • In November 2021, the Province provided $10 million to the Centre for Cancer Prevention and Support to boost research and innovation for cancer prevention and survivor assistance by connecting discoveries more rapidly to programs.
  • In December 2021, the Province launched the first at-home HPV cervix-screening pilots.
  • Since the cervix self-screening program was expanded in January 2024, approximately 25,000 kits were requested by people in B.C. in the first month of the program.
  • In July 2022, the Province added eight Indigenous patient navigators to help patients who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit receive supportive care that is trauma informed and culturally safe.
  • In March 2022, the Province launched the Lung Screening Program, providing access to eligible high-risk people at 36 sites throughout the province.
  • In 2022, government provided services to 4,000 people queued in the Hereditary Cancer Program wait list.
  • On Feb. 24, 2023, the Province launched B.C.’s Cancer Care Action Plan, investing $440 million to expand cancer-care teams and service hours, introduce revised pay structures to ensure B.C. is attractive and competitive for oncologists and cancer-care professionals, improve cancer screening programs, support cancer research, increase Indigenous patient support positions, and support patients who must travel for care from rural communities.
  • In April 2023, the Province announced a new 3T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine is being installed at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) and an existing 1.5T MRI machine is being replaced.
  • In May 2023, the Province announced new cancer centres will be coming to the Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) and Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH) with the approval of concept plans for both locations.
  • In May, 2023, BC Cancer began temporarily offering eligible patients radiation treatment at one of two clinics in Bellingham, Wash., to support B.C.’s cancer plan and reduce wait times for radiation treatment.
  • In September 2023, the Province broke ground on the new Surrey Hospital and BC Cancer centre and announced business plan approval for phase 2 of the Burnaby Hospital redevelopment plan that will include a new inpatient tower and an integrated cancer centre.
  • In September 2023, the Province invested $20 million to expand medical travel support, providing the Canadian Cancer Society and Hope Air with $10 million each as part of the $440 million investment through the 10-year Cancer Action Plan.
  • On Nov. 27, 2023, Richmond Hospital’s updated cancer clinic, which includes an innovative Remote Symptom Monitoring (RSM) system, opened to the public.
  • In January 2024, the Province implemented a new cervical cancer self-screening program, extended eligibility for free, publicly funded vaccines to males born in 2005, and announced that construction is underway in Vancouver for a new state-of-the-art cyclotron and radiopharmacy laboratory.
  • In February 2024, the Province announced a new state-of-the-art computed tomography (CT) scanner is being installed at Squamish General Hospital (SGH). Approximately $6.5 million is being funded by the Province through Vancouver Coastal Health and Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District to support this action.
Recent key achievements

Since the launch of B.C.’s 10-Year Cancer Action Plan in 2023, key achievements include:

Prevention and screening:
Targeted initiatives have been launched to increase vaccination rates, along with expansion to screening programs, with increased volumes.

  • Pharmacy-based campaign launched to provide free HPV vaccinations.
  • Launched HPV testing, including provincewide self-screening.
  • Increased screening volumes for breast (+4.3%), colon (+7.8%) lung (+4.3%) and hereditary (+20.4%) compared to last year.
  • Providing electronic notifications for screening and reminder notes and vaccinations and allowing electronic booking of appointments.

Timely access:
More patients and treatments are being provided compared to last year.

  • Patient volumes have increased by 9.3% compared to last year for systemic therapy, and by 1.3% for radiation therapy.
  • Wait times of patients receiving treatment within four weeks for radiation therapy have improved from 67.9% from July to August 2023 to 78.6% from January to February 2024, and continue to improve, as a result of capacity and workflow improvements.

Major growth in physicians, staff, redevelopment plans and capital, to better provide care.

  • 80 cancer doctors and 104 regional centre staff full-time equivalents (FTEs) or 8% increase, have been added over the past year.
  • Approval of business cases for Kamloops Cancer Centre and concept plan approval for Nanaimo Cancer Centre.
  • Investments in major capital equipment for PET/CT, e.g., $21-million investment for new cyclotron and radiopharmacy laboratory.

Expansion in clinical trials for emerging treatments at all centres to increase survival and cure rates.

  • Clinical trials to support access to emerging treatments in flight at all six BC Cancer Centres:
    • 23 radiation therapy clinical trials this year;
    • 13 startup and seed grants; and
    • significant multidisciplinary and research projects.