Ontario musician and former Canadian Idol contestant Vincent Benenati, 32, hopes that a trial drug might help save his life after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Benenati entertained millions on the 2005 season of the show, but his music dreams have been put on hold after he was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma where his only remaining treatment option is a trial drug that is not yet covered by Ontario Heath Insurance.
In the two years since his diagnosis, Benenati has already tried multiple treatments.
“We tried chemotherapy, some radiation and stem cell transplant. They didn’t work,” said Benenati. “There’s one option we do have left. It’s a clinical trial drug that has promising results. The unfortunate thing is, it’s not covered by our health-care system, so we’re left covering the costs on our own.”
His last hope is a drug called SGN-35, which is manufactured by a Seattle-based company.
It costs $14,000 per injection and his doctor wants him to have at least six injections. In total, Benenati, who is married with a two-year-old daughter, needed $100,000 for treatment.
Raising the money was a monumental task, but community members banded together.
On July 5, more than 1,000 people packed a hotel banquet room in Woodbridge, Ont. for a “Night of Hope” fundraiser to raise cash for Benenati, who had come straight from a radiation treatment to attend.
Benenati said he was feeling good, in spite of his earlier treatment.
“With a little bit of medication to help with the side effects and a huge outpouring of support, and love from everybody, how can one feel anything different than good right now?” said Benenati.
Fundraiser attendees bid on auction items including Italian scooters, fine wines and even a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
When the night was over, Benenati had more than $100,000.
He’ll start his treatments in the coming weeks.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Karlene Nation