MP Arnold Chan Battles Cancer With Immunotherapy

Updated graphic of Arnold Chan and his family

Arnold Chan has spent two years in Parliament and during that time, he's been diagnosed with cancer. The first sign of trouble was when lumps appeared on the side of his neck. "I wasn't really sure what was going on," says Chan, who noticed the lumps soon after he was elected as the MP for the riding of Scarborough-Agincourt in 2014. A visit to a doctor and a series of tests followed.

"It was determined that I had some form of carcinoma in the neck," says Chan, who was then treated at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  Chan soon learned he had a type of head and neck cancer that was relatively rare in North America, but which afflicts people of his ethnic background. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  "It seemed at the end of it that I was clear," says Chan.

But six months later, Chan noticed a lump under his armpit. A CT scan would confirm that his cancer had resurfaced.  "It's always a shock," says Chan. 

A New Approach

Chan started having chemotherapy again, and it was determined that immunotherapy could be a more effective treatment in his cancer fight. Dr. Lillian Siu, a Director of the Tumor Immunotherapy Program at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, suggested Chan enter a clinical trial.

Parliamentary photo of Arnold Chan
"It was felt that immunotherapy might give me the best opportunity to try to beat my cancer," Chan says.

Immunotherapy has been around for a long time but it is still considered a new, and promising, approach in cancer treatment. Immunotherapy harnesses the natural power of the immune system to combat cancer. Immune therapy is particularly appealing because it can specifically target cancer tissues and thus generally has limited side effects. Leading scientists and clinicians predict it could one day be the fourth pillar in treatment, alongside chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. 

"My family remains hopeful that I may be cured." 

Chan says it is important to support the work being done on immunotherapy at the Cancer Centre, as it gives hope to patients and the promise of a cure for cancer one day. He's already shown his support for The Princess Margaret by taking part in the Journey to Conquer Cancer, raising public awareness in the broader community, and spreading the word about #NoHairSelfie on World Cancer Day.