A Shocking

On the same day that Paul was diagnosed with a dangerous form of brain cancer, Sunnybrook approved a ground breaking new clinical trial that could one day change the course of this devastating disease. Paul took it as a sign.

It all started with a dull headache for Paul Hudspith, an engineer, cellist and married father of two. When that headache suddenly turned into unbearable pain and vomiting, he was rushed to Sunnybrook's Emergency Department.

Emergency scans revealed that a brain tumour was bleeding into Paul's brain.

"I was told surgery was required to save my life," he says. "I eventually learned that if I hadn't gone to the hospital when I did — and Sunnybrook in particular because not all hospitals are able to perform the brain surgery I needed — I likely would not have survived."

We asked Paul to play his cello for us. He graciously complied and played us Bach: Cello Suite No. 1, amongst other great pieces.

Paul's surgery was successful and his tumour was removed. But then things took a turn for the worse.

A biopsy revealed that Paul had a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, the same cancer that claimed the life of Canadian musician and icon, Gord Downie, in 2017.

This is the most common and aggressive of malignant brain tumours, striking about 1,000 Canadians every year.

In the days following this devastating news, Paul was overcome by "fear and shock." He turned to yoga for positive energy and became focused on finding the best possible treatment for his disease, which included intensive radiation and chemotherapy at Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre.

Paul soon learned that on the very same day as his diagnosis, Sunnybrook scientists received approval for a new clinical trial that could be a game-changer. He and his wife took this as a sign that it was meant to be.

This device is opening the blood-brain barrier for the first time.

Sunnybrook researchers, led by Dr. Nir Lipsman, director of the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation, are exploring the use of focused ultrasound to deliver chemotherapy to glioblastoma tumours. By using a helmet-like device that can convert electrical energy to sound energy, we can now "focus" waves of ultrasound over specific regions in the brain guided by MRI imaging. Where those waves converge, Sunnybrook scientists have invented a unique method of temporarily and reversibly opening the blood-brain barrier, a protective layer that prevents harmful — as well as helpful — substances from entering the brain. With this barrier no longer an obstacle, the hope is that focused ultrasound can deliver chemotherapy directly to the tumour, where it can do the most good.

Paul was invited to participate in Phase 2 of this clinical trial, which is the first time in the world that focused ultrasound will be paired with chemotherapy to target glioblastoma. Sunnybrook scientists recently completed and published results of the Phase 1 trial, which established the safety of the procedure — also a world first.

The prospect of participating in this high-tech trial was daunting at first, but Paul, as an engineer, was fascinated. "Involvement in the trial means two things to me," he says. "Firstly, I hope my involvement can advance this exciting form of treatment so others can survive glioblastoma and other brain ailments with a decent quality of life. Secondly, I hope participating helps give me a better prognosis."

Innovative research at Sunnybrook is only possible with donor support. Thanks to you, our team is exploring this groundbreaking technology in patients with Alzheimer's, ALS, depression, OCD, Parkinson's and more.

Paul and Francine's pup Beau enjoying a day of belly rubs, treats and walks in the family ravine.
Now a "pioneer" in one of our leading clinical trials, Paul is grateful to all who contribute toward better treatment options for patients like him.

"I've found this to be a gift that comes with this disease: the gratitude for everything that is good in life and gratitude toward those who support me every day."

Focused ultrasound is revolutionizing the treatment of brain disorders.
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