Your generosity made this Canadian first possible

Donor generosity is enabling Manitoba to be a national leader. Thanks to your incredible investment, prostate cancer patients have access to leading-edge radiation treatments here at home. Your steadfast commitment is helping cure men living with this disease. Men like John Unger.

John reflects his prostate cancer diagnosis didn’t come as a surprise to him. What did come as a surprise though was there was an advanced treatment on the horizon – and he was first in line in Canada to receive it.

“When I got the diagnosis, I already suspected I probably had prostate cancer,” says John, a young-at-heart 70-something. “But finding out there was a new treatment which was going to make it a heck of a lot more acceptable was very good news.”

In November 2019, John began his radiation treatment using a new system – Calypso – which precisely targets cancer cells while limiting radiation exposure to the surrounding tissue. He is very grateful to donors, as he appreciates your support helped bring this technology to Manitoba.

The targeting capability of Calypso ultimately leads to much-improved treatment experience for the patient, one which is considerably shorter and less damaging.

“Without Calypso, Mr. Unger and others like him would typically come in once a day for seven weeks and receive very low doses of radiation at each visit,” said Dr Boyd McCurdy, head of CancerCare Manitoba’s Radiation Oncology Physics Group. “Thanks to your investment, they now only come in once a week for five weeks.”

And because the delivery of radiation is so precise, damage to surrounding tissues, organs and even bone is almost nonexistent. It simply means thanks to you, more people will survive following cancer treatment.

“Calypso essentially decreases the patient’s chances of short and long-term side effects so they live healthy, long and normal lives and still receive excellent cancer control,” said Dr Rashmi Koul, Medical Director of CancerCare Manitoba’s Radiation Oncology Program.

So how exactly does Calypso work? It’s a real time tracking system for cancer cells. It uses three tiny beacons, each smaller than a grain of rice, inserted directly into a patient’s cancerous tissue. Calypso checks the position of the beacons 25 times a second as a radiation beam is being administered.

If the prostate moves more than the allocated distance – usually about three millimetres – the beam switches off. When the prostate moves back into the target area, the treatment machine will seamlessly pick up where it left off and continue with the radiation.

Calypso was initially used for lung cancer patients and now thanks to your donations, is the standard treatment here in our province for those with prostate cancer who qualify for this new treatment.

New ground is truly being broken in Manitoba and this would not be possible without your support. This leading-edge technology comes with a high sticker price, ringing in at over $400,000. Plus the beacons cost hundreds of dollars each. Donor dollars enabled CancerCare Manitoba to be the premier cancer centre in the country to purchase and implement the Calypso system.

Your contributions helped John in a very direct and positive way. He completed his treatment with almost no side effects and is now living cancer free and very well. He has a contagious spirit and his grin widens when he shares all the wonderful times he’s having with family and friends. His message of gratitude to you comes from deep within his heart.

“To the donors who have supported the Foundation and made it possible to bring this new technology to Manitoba, I say thank you so much and please keep it up. And gosh, without you, what would we do?” – John Unger