Dr. Brian Toyota
Head, Division of Neurosurgery, UBC/VGH; Assistant Professor, UBC, Department Surgery; Director, BrainCare BC, BC Cancer Agency

Blog Posts by Dr. Brian Toyota

Displaying 1 - 10 of 17 blog posts

Close to Home – A Final Patient Story

I selfishly want to add one last post. My vision for BrainCare came to me as an idea simply from treating patients with brain cancer, but I did not have the training, ability or time to make that idea useful. In 2006, I met with Dr. Simon Sutcliffe, then President of the BC Cancer Agency to discuss my conundrum. He introduced me to Susan Egan. Susan was from the business world, but she had dabbled in the health care world. She became the project manager for BrainCare and drove it to the heights it now enjoys. Unequivocally, without her guidance, BrainCare would have remained one more idea...

BrainCare Part II: World-Class Expertise and Technology

Without embellishment, BrainCare has managed to create a brain tumour diagnosis/surgery/treatment paradigm that I believe is unique in the world. Perhaps this is simply due to the luck of timing, but as they say, the harder you work, the luckier you get. There are three foundations: Firstly, the BC Cancer Agency has a world-class Functional Imaging Program. Under the supervision of Dr. Don Wilson and Dr. François Bénard, we now have the capacity to see the metabolic activity of a malignant brain tumour using PET CT. The standard methods to image a tumour consist of CT and MRI. But these are...

BrainCare Part I: Regaining Control and Building Relationships

I could easily recount dozens more stories to help segue into this blog’s description of BrainCare and the BC Cancer Agency’s brain tumour care and research. As you can imagine, 20 years in the operating room chronicles several hundred chapters of triumphs and tragedies. They have all helped formulate our research agenda. My experience in medicine, and in life, has shown me that fear and anxiety come from loss of control. This is concept is crystallized in cancer in general, and brain malignancies in particular. Every day we have the luxury of toying with decisions and choices that lay out...

Empowering Brain Cancer Patients Through Knowledge

Today, I’d like to share two patient stories that have had an impact on the direction of brain cancer research and care in B.C.: About 15 years ago a young man from Whistler, in his late 20s, was struck down by a malignant glioma. I operated on him several times trying to stay ahead of the advancing cells. This was before there was any useful chemotherapy agent to treat brain cancer – just surgery, radiation and the hope of a new experimental drug on the horizon. It was in the days when today’s standard therapy, Temozolomide, was ‘an experimental’ drug, only available by special access or...

A Cancer Journey: One Patient's Story

Yes, though I imagined I would have a career clipping aneurysms and removing blood clots, my patients who had brain cancer allured me. In 1996, three years after I graduated from residency, I treated a man who had a malignant glioma – operated twice in fact. He passed away in 1997 but his daughter wrote me a letter in 2000, regarding her father and my involvement. It’s not like a doctor knowingly crafts a specific relationship with a patient; like other relationships in life, they just happen. It wasn’t hard for me to empathize with a person with brain cancer, or with the ones they love. It...

Brain Cancer and Research: A Personal Look

I am very happy to be back blogging on behalf of the BC Cancer Foundation, a fun way to launch 2014. It’s been two years since I last introduced myself though this forum. Things have changed modestly since then; I stepped down as the BC Cancer Agency’s Provincial Chair of Neuro-oncology in the spring of 2013 and have since become the Head of Neurosurgery for the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver General Hospital. I am also currently the President of the Canadian Neurosurgical Society. For nine years I proudly led the neuro-oncology group and I feel we made tremendous strides...

One last thing…

It is my tenet, and I use this for my children as well as my students, that one’s objective in any situation is to make it better. To stand back and observe, and then engage in a way that makes it better. It can be a simple game in the schoolyard gone awry or an operating room that has run into catastrophe. Anyone can observe the obvious negatives, and a few can envision positive change, but the real achievement is to enact to make transparent, visible, palpable positive change. That is the marker of success. I am resolute that BrainCare BC adheres to that fundamental—to do otherwise would be...

BrainCare BC

Clearly I have over-extended my invitation, so this is my last post (and with 2012 just around the corner, the next blogger is already on standby, I’m told). I note that there are a lot of “I,” “me,” “my” and “mine” in my posts, but it certainly was not my intent to make this a self-serving exposé on Brian Toyota. In fact, the sum total of all that I have described in terms of what we have done and where we are going is the result of a large, expansive team, centralized at the BC Cancer Agency. We have called our innovative and progressive program “BrainCare BC.” BrainCare BC is the only...

The future of brain cancer treatment

In previous posts, I have directly alluded to the future of cancer treatment and the repetitiveness of this topic, I believe, validates its existence and realistic potential. The future of cancer treatment in general has to do with personalized medicine and molecular or genetic analysis, like Dr. Aly Karsan talked about here last month. The same holds true for brain cancer. In the old days, a pathologist would look down a light microscope and describe a tumour based on its shape and colouration. From this, a name would be attached, a treatment plan assigned and a textbook prognosis delivered...

My life as a brain surgeon

I like being a brain surgeon. I like my work. The operating room is my office, and I get to say things like “STAT” and “scalpel.” Although, I have never once said “STAT” except to imitate some character on M.A.S.H., and I have always called a “scalpel” a “knife” for reasons I don’t really remember. I know I can under-impress people after they find out what I do. I rarely have swashbuckling stories to tell, and I’m not sure I look the part—that guy on Gray’s Anatomy often makes real neurosurgeons feel inadequate. Thanks guy. That said, I also enjoy teaching, and I like the technical aspects of...

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