the old adage says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what about an outdated healthcare system. can we teach an old system to be modern and innovative in the face of new breakthroughs and technologies? the recent approval of the first chimeric antigen receptor t-cell therapy [car-t] has many of us questioning how to implement new technologies into an old framework. can we do it?
last november the cancer collaborative hosted a multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss the adoption of car t-cell therapy in canada. what we heard loud and clear was that our infrastructure wasn’t prepared for this sort of disruptive technology. a crisis in capacity. uncertainties exist around the logistics of delivering car-t cell therapy because it’s never been done before. the unique mechanism of this type of therapy and clinical potential has everyone excited about its promise but what will that look like in real world practice. this will be a test to the system, perhaps the catalyst for change the system has needed, a system that is built on building better health and patient outcomes.
there has been and there will continue to be a learning curve as we introduce the first approved car-t; as we introduce multiple entry car-t therapies, car-t therapies that target different antigens; as we move from hematological malignancies to solid tumours and even to the non-oncology space and even further learnings as we look at different models to delivering car t-cell therapies. perhaps the greatest learning we will have is to better understand how these technologies disruptive and innovative or not, can be used to enhance our healthcare system and the processes, policies and approaches we use in connecting sick patients with potentially life saving therapies.
how do we keep up with the speed of innovation and disruption? can we start to embrace innovation rather than hide away from it? because there has been no precedent to offer car-t, this therapy offers an opportunity for the canadian healthcare system to challenge the way it does things and to become a leader not only in delivering car-t but in adapting its healthcare system to the modern technologies, both current and emerging. over the last five years the oncology landscape has seen paradigm shifts with breakthroughs in immuno-oncology and using the patients own immune system to ward off disease. is there a better way for us to harmonize our healthcare with processes and policies that really puts the patient at the heart of care, giving them not only a chance to live cancer free but have a better quality of life during therapy all while providing leading edge care and leadership and sustainability that makes sense for everyone?