Kidney Cancer Patients Strive for Five during National Kidney Month

Kidney Cancer Canada kicks off National Kidney Month in Canada with message of hope

TORONTO, February 26, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Survival. Support. Understanding. Research. Hope. These are five words that mean a great deal to Kidney Cancer Canada as National Kidney Month kicks off this March.

"As few as five years ago, a diagnosis of advanced kidney cancer left few options for patients or physicians. Little was known about the disease and patients found themselves with nowhere to turn for support," says Deb Maskens, co-founder, Kidney Cancer Canada, the first and only Canadian charity established to improve the quality of life for patients and their families living with kidney cancer. "But Canada has made remarkable progress in the area of kidney cancer. From medical advances to patient support, important inroads in combating kidney cancer are starting to unfold."

According to Maskens, there are five key areas where kidney cancer management is gaining traction in Canada:

1. Survival - The average survival time for patients living with advanced kidney cancer has grown considerably. "A few years ago patients were living approximately twelve months - that's changed so much in such a short time we are literally making history," says Dr. Jennifer Knox, medical oncologist, Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. "Most patients with metastatic kidney cancer are living longer on average today than ever before and some of these patients are surviving years longer than expected, all thanks to advances in treatment options over the past five years."

Kidney cancer does not respond to conventional therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation, which makes the need for alternative, effective treatments that much more important.

"The introduction of the new targeted therapies has changed the lives of people with kidney cancer and men and women are living longer," says Knox. "But even though they are approved by Health Canada, not all treatments are available to Canadians due to a lack of funding for all these new drug therapies. What will improve survival even further is if our patients have better access and more flexibility in treatment options so their physicians can tailor their treatment more effectively."

2. Support - A handful of years ago, when someone was diagnosed with kidney cancer, there was nowhere to turn for dedicated information and support about their disease. In 2007, Deb Maskens and Tony Clark changed that and created Kidney Cancer Canada (KCC) to fill that gap. KCC is now a registered charity with a strong presence across Canada.

On April 10, 2010 KCC will hold the first Patient Education Conference in Toronto, where kidney cancer experts from across Canada will present the latest treatment and research information and patients will have the opportunity to learn about self-care and support services and meet other patients and caregivers.

3. Understanding - In 2009, the KCC Medical Advisory Board, comprised of cross-Canada experts from specialties including urology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and nursing, was established. "Our mission is to provide KCC with a dedicated group of medical practitioners focused on kidney cancer research, collaboration, and best practices in patient care," says Knox, who is Chair of the Board. "Creating a strong medical connection helps build awareness for the disease among the medical community and supports a greater push for patient therapies."

4. Research - The number of clinical trials in kidney cancer has been rising in the past few years, which fuels the hope of better patient outcomes. Canadian clinical researchers continue to make important contributions to these clinical trials. For example, researchers are studying new surgical treatments that preserve much of the patient's kidney, allowing them to live a full and healthy life.

2009 also saw the beginning of the Kidney Cancer Research Network of Canada (KCRNC). For the first time, there will be a coordinated group of Canadian scientists dedicated to kidney cancer research. Canadian patients will directly benefit from the application of intensive research at centres of excellence in kidney cancer.

But to continue on the path of achievement more dedicated research and funding is needed. A recent report from the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance shows kidney cancer is proportionally and significantly underfunded. Kidney cancer receives less than 1.2 per cent of the $402.4 million invested in cancer research in Canada, even though it accounts for up to three per cent of new cases.

5. Hope - KCC fights for treatment access, medical awareness and research. But above all, they offer a message of hope. "When I was diagnosed I was given one year to live. That was six years ago," says Tony Clark, co-founder of KCC. "I didn't think I would be here today helping other patients and I can't help but feel hope for the future. There is still a long way to go, but we continue to strive ahead one step at a time."

Kidney Cancer Canada

Kidney Cancer Canada is the first Canadian-based, patient-led registered charity established to improve the quality of life for patients and their families living with kidney cancer. Kidney Cancer Canada advocates for access to new treatments, provides support and information to patients, and works to increase awareness of kidney cancer as a significant health issue. For more information please visit: