The BC Cancer Foundation announced its first ever province-wide fundraising campaign Wednesday (Sept. 21), amidst predictions of an exponential increase in diagnoses by 2030.
The organization, which supports about 80,000 patients a year, has its sights set on a $500-million goal. It’s a lofty total, but one the foundatioon has already secured more than half of, with over $250 million committed from philanthropists ahead of the public launch.
Raising the funds now is vital, the organization says. By 2030, an estimated 37,000 British Columbians will be diagnosed with cancer annually, according to a 2015 BC Medical Journal research paper. That’s a 57 per cent increase from 2012. The paper also estimates a 19 per cent increase in cancer deaths during the same period, from 9,107 in 2012 to 11,195 in 2030.
Much of that is due to B.C.’s ageing population. By 2031, nearly one quarter of British Columbians will be over the age of 65, according to government projections. Cancer becomes far more common as people age, particularly among those aged 70 to 90.
Not all of it is bad news though, BC Cancer Foundation president and CEO Sarah Roth says. The number of cancer patients is also increasing because many are living longer or beating the disease permanently.
Regardless of good or bad news, the two factors are both increasing the strain on B.C.’s treatment and care system, Roth says.
The $500 million will target cancer in three areas: funding research, retaining new experts through fellowships and clinical trials, and increasing the number of cancer centres throughout the province.
Philanthropy is particularly important when it comes to the research side, Roth says, as it is isn’t government funded.
“There’s always donor money that is needed to fuel innovation and try new things in science,” she says.
In recent years, B.C. doctors conducted the first ever effective surgery to prevent ovarian cancer and researchers developed a first-of-its-kind blood test for in-depth analysis of patients’ cancer makeup. BC Cancer’s Victoria’s Deeley Research Centre was also the first lab in Canada to make CAR-T cells, used to destroy blood cancer cells.
Roth’s dream for the campaign is to spark the same urgency and action for cancer treatment that was put behind creating COVID-19 vaccines.
“We need that same push and effort in cancer because there’s so much hope on the horizon,” Roth says.
Funds will also go to supporting the mental health of patients and their families. This is an area Roth says they are focusing on more and more.
More information on the Beyond Belief campaign can be found at GoBeyondBeliefBC.ca.