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Thanks to generous donors, Manitobans will have access to life saving care closer to home.

elderly lady sitting on a balcony with her small white and brown spotted dog in her lap.

In the spring of 2022 Shirley and her husband Wayne spent nearly two months in Toronto where she went through CAR T-cell therapy – a treatment that saved her life.

Thanks to donors’ unwavering support of local research, patients like Shirley will no longer need to travel out of province to receive this critical care in the future.

One of the many donor-funded research projects being worked on at the Paul Albrechtsen Research Institute CancerCare Manitoba is CAR T-cell therapy. This therapy reprograms a patient’s immune cells to target and attack cancer cells throughout the body.

Shirley’s journey with cancer first began in 2008 when she was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma. Thankfully, she responded well to chemotherapy and went into remission. Eleven years later however, her cancer returned and chemotherapy treatments no longer worked. Shirley experienced life-threatening complications and required a stem cell transplant. Doctors told her that should her cancer ever return, she would likely have limited treatment options.

Last spring Shirley and Wayne were understandably devastated when they learned her cancer had returned yet again. However, they were thankful to learn that CAR T-cell therapy was available. Unfortunately, it meant enduring the difficulty of travelling away from their home and their family.

While I was so grateful there was a treatment available, it was very stressful to be away from home,” said Shirley. “We weren’t familiar with the city and we knew no one. Had my treatment been in Manitoba, we would have had a community of support from friends and family.

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, Dr. David Szwajcer and his colleagues at CancerCare Manitoba have been diligently working over the last five years to lay the foundation for a comprehensive CAR-T program that will meet the needs of Manitobans now and into the future.

A young, elderly lady posing for a photograph with family and friends in a backyard with tropical plants and trees.

Donors’ investment coupled with the doctors’ hard work resulted in an exciting announcement in January 2023, when CancerCare Manitoba announced provincial funding for this program. As a result, eligible patients with blood cancers will soon be able to receive their treatment in Winnipeg. The development of this program would not have been possible without your support.

Shirley’s CAR T-cell therapy was successful and today she is cancer free.

For the first time in many years, Shirley and Wayne were able to get back to the travelling they love, spending much of the winter in Arizona and road tripping throughout Manitoba in the summer. They have a large family and love spending time with their kids, grandkids and great grandkids.

“We don’t know how much longer our lives are going to be. So, we are pushing ourselves to live to the fullest and enjoy our time together.”