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A Tailored Approach
to Brain Cancer

Andrew had landed a dream job in data science and recently welcomed a second son when he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

“Our family is so health conscious and active,” says the 38-year-old from Mississauga, a passionate cyclist who proposed to his wife Joanna seven years ago from the sidelines of a long-distance road race as she hit the 20-km mark. “This came out of nowhere.”

Andrew remembers the night in November 2019 when he had a seizure. Scans at a local hospital revealed a grade III oligodendroglioma, a rare tumour.

Accustomed to crunching data to drive efficiencies for industrial companies, Andrew sought a second opinion.

That’s where he met Sunnybrook’s Dr. Arjun Sahgal, who leads one of the foremost cancer ablation therapy programs.

“My wife and I were floored by his kindness and expertise,” says Andrew.

Andrew and Joanna with their two sons
Andrew and Joanna with their two sons.

Dr. Sahgal suggested that based on years of data for Andrew’s type of tumour, radiation and chemotherapy would give a better outcome than either treatment on its own. He also said Sunnybrook was testing a modality to tailor radiation, the MR-Linac. The machine’s real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) caught Andrew’s attention. He decided to participate in a clinical trial.

Radiation therapist and strategic initiatives manager Mikki Campbell says real-time data is changing the dialogue for patients. “We have more information up front, so we can have conversations with radiation oncologists and medical physicists to put together a plan that best matches the patient,” she says. “It’s tailored and individualized.”

With a personalized plan, Andrew stays focused on his family and career. He often does work in the passenger seat as his father drives him to his daily treatments.

“It’s comforting knowing every time I have therapy, the MR-Linac is doing an MRI to be as targeted as possible,” says Andrew. “Even if it’s a half millimetre more accurate, that’s an important half millimetre.”

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