First Albertans receive CAR T-cell therapy

Provincial Press Release April 23, 2021 @ 11:18am published at 11:40am

A promising new cancer treatment is now available in the province, ensuring cancer patients no longer need to travel elsewhere for this leading-edge care.


The first Albertans received an approved CAR T-cell therapy last month at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary. In addition, a clinical trial to develop a made-in-Alberta CAR T-cell therapy is underway at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton.


“Alberta’s government is excited to offer this innovative treatment in our province, providing Albertans who urgently need this care with timely and convenient access here at home. I’m proud that Alberta has successfully launched its own CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial and is the third province to provide access to an approved version of this revolutionary cancer treatment.” Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

CAR T-cell therapy genetically reprograms a person’s immune cells to attack cancer cells in their body. It is used to treat children and adults with specific types of leukemia and lymphoma, and is considered the standard of care for these cancers if they recur.


Alberta’s government partnered with the Alberta Cancer Foundation to provide $15 million to Alberta Health Services (AHS) so the treatment can be provided closer to home.


“This is an important milestone as CAR-T treatment becomes more accessible for Albertans facing cancer. We are grateful for the commitment of our donors, Alberta Health and the expertise in Cancer Care Alberta as this new therapy is now being offered across the province for patients who need it most.” Wendy Beauchesne, CEO, Alberta Cancer Foundation


“Cancer is not an easy road, but for people to be able to have this treatment close to home will be such a blessing for them.” Martha Kandt, patient

“It is incredible how fast this program moved forward with the generous funds from our government and the Alberta Cancer Foundation. From receiving funding to treating our first patient was under six months. This is a great addition to our already outstanding cancer care program in Alberta.” Dr. Ted Braun, vice-president and medical director, Clinical Operations, Alberta Health Services


“Providing access to commercial treatments to patients in Alberta is something for us to be proud of. The collaboration and support for this program will only prove to help those who need this therapy the most.” Dr. Mona Shafey, hematologist and director, Alberta Blood & Marrow Transplant Program


“Leading the made-in-Alberta trial is an exciting opportunity to bring additional cell therapy options to Albertans as well as to bring the province to the forefront of clinical and translational research. Our provincial program will strive to expand our scope and capabilities to address the medical needs and uncertainties of both cancer and non-cancer patients.” Dr. Michael Chu, assistant professor and medical oncologist

Quick facts


With this therapy, a patient’s T-cells are isolated, genetically modified and expanded to sufficient numbers in a laboratory. Then, the T-cells are returned to the patient. Most patients receive only one infusion, as these cells have the ability to multiply and continue fighting cancer cells.


CAR T-cell therapy trials have demonstrated durable remissions and potential cures in about 50 per cent of adults and 80 per cent of children and young adults.

It is expected about 150 Albertans may be eligible to receive this treatment over the next three years.