'If it was my child, I'd be using it.’: A Strathroy family is faced with paying their own way for immunotherapy
Last November, 24-year-old Kyle McPhee was diagnosed with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, "It started in my liver and it's, kind of, spread to other parts. Mostly pockets in my lungs."
The cancer targets young people with normal liver function and no known risk factors. It is extremely rare.
"Maybe two thousand people in the world,” said Kim McPhee, Kyle’s mom. “In Canada, maybe 200 a year. They can't get studies because there aren't enough people."
That's the catch for the McPhee family. They've been told by Kyle’s oncologist and other health professionals that immunotherapy may be the best course of action for Kyle. However, there hasn't been any research about the effectiveness of the treatment on the form of cancer he has.
It has worked for other rare forms of cancer. That’s why Kyle’s dad, Paul, was puzzled when he learned his family couldn’t get funding approval through OHIP.
"Our oncologist said to us, 'If it was my child, I'd be using it,’" said Paul.
The funding approval would be for two drugs, Atezolizumab and Bevacizumab, used in combination for the immunotherapy treatment.
They are treatments, Paul McPhee revealed, that cost $9,000 per session.
"It's when it's expensive, like this one, they have to go through an approval process, get financing for it and it's like… yeah,” he added.
The McPhee's are now trying to raise enough money on their own for four treatments over four months, hoping that a $36,000 investment will show promise and open the door to at least partial OHIP funding for ongoing treatments.
Kyle admitted there are no guarantees with the strategy, "There's still the chance that, even if it does work, they would still say no. That's kind of... That doesn't make much sense to me."
In the interim, Kyle's aunt has started a GoFundMe page and Kyle is undergoing chemotherapy.
As for what's next? Paul McPhee chokes back his emotions when that question is raised.
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