Brain cancer research: how we lead
We are leaders in the field of brain tumour research & treatment innovation.
Learn more about what we’re doing to advance care for brain cancer patients below.
Breaching the blood-brain barrier
In late 2015, Sunnybrook researchers breached the blood-brain barrier (BBB), effectively delivering medication directly to a patient’s brain tumour for the first time in history.
The blood-brain barrier acts like plastic wrap around the small blood vessels in the brain. This “plastic wrap” allows only select molecules to get through the barrier and to the brain, which is an obstacle when it comes to delivering medication therapies — such as chemotherapy — to treat diseases of the brain.
Using focused ultrasound, researchers were able to break through this barrier, and non-invasively deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to a patient’s tumour for the first time ever.
MR-Linac will save lives with precision
Soon doctors at our Odette Cancer Centre will be able to watch a beam of radiation move through a patient's body in real time, and direct that beam precisely at a tumour.
This is thanks to the MR-Linac, the world’s first machine to fuse radiation and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technology will let doctors target tumours and monitor their response to radiation with unprecedented precision – even as a tumour moves.
Sunnybrook is part of an international consortium to refine, test and use the MR-Linac to treat patients; we are the lead site to develop the machine’s applications for glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive cancerous primary brain tumour.
Coming soon: killing cancer, fewer side-effects
Coming soon to Sunnybrook, a new radiation system that will kill brain tumours without harming healthy brain tissue — meaning fewer side-effects for patients undergoing treatment.
The system, called the Gamma Knife Icon, focuses hundreds of radiation beams on a single target — a tumour. Individually, each beam is too weak to damage the healthy brain tissue it crosses on the way to the tumour. But at the site where the beams converge, cancerous tissue is destroyed.
This precise treatment spares patients from whole-brain radiation, and in turn spares them from side-effects that could damage memory and cognitive function.