Treatment & Support
The Pencer Brain Tumor Centre

Overview

This section provides an overview of treatment and supportive care programs at The Gerry & Nancy Pencer Brain Tumor Centre. If you are a patient of The Brain Tumor Centre, or if you require more detailed information about brain tumors, or the programs and services offered at The Pencer Brain Tumor Centre, please click here to be connected to The Pencer Centre website.

The Gerry & Nancy Pencer Brain Tumor Centre Mission

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To be a “Centre of Excellence” which provides multidisciplinary care, treatment and support for brain tumor patients and their families. To promote translational brain tumor research.

The Centre occupies approximately 5,700 square feet and is located on the 18th floor of Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. A clinic unlike any other, the Centre is designed to be warm and aesthetically pleasing to all who visit. With honey hardwood floors, comfortable and stylish furniture and original oil paintings by Edith Kernerman, and sleek glass sculptures, the atmosphere is meant to encourage optimism and comfort – a home away from home. Fresh cut flowers, soft halogen lighting, a juice bar, and a quiet restful Resource Library round out the unique features of the Centre.

Established in 1998, The Gerry & Nancy Pencer Brain Tumor Centre is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art Centre, providing the highest quality treatment, information and support for brain tumor patients and their families, as well as clinical and translational brain tumor research. What makes the Pencer Centre unique is it’s ability to provide access to a wide range of disciplines and expertise in one comprehensive site.

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Medical Services
Supportive Services
Research
Centre Staff
Stories of Courage
Medical Services

Medical care at The Pencer Centre is provided by a wide-range of medical practitioners from a variety of disciplines. Our medical staff are internationally respected for their expertise in the treatment of primary tumors of the brain. This team of world-class physicians provide state-of-the-art medical treatments as well as being involved in ongoing research for better, more effective treatments for these diseases. Referrals to The Pencer Centre are welcome, but please note, all referrals must come from a physician.

Pencer Centre Medical Services include:

  • Radiation Oncology
  • Neuro-oncology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Pathology
  • Rehabilitation Services
  • Palliative Care
  • Outpatient Clinics
  • Nursing
  • Biostatistics

If you require more detailed information about brain tumors, or the programs and services offered at The Pencer Brain Tumor Centre, please click here to be connected to The Pencer Centre website.

Supportive Services

The Pencer Brain Tumor Centre provides a range of unique and innovative programs that supplement medical services, and provide additional support to help brain tumor patients and their families cope with the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

Pencer Centre Supportive Services Include:

  • Relaxation Therapy Led by a certified Occupational Therapist, this drop-in program offers patients and family members an opportunity to learn a number of useful techniques for relaxation.
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Monthly Support Group Meetings Run the second Tuesday of each month, these drop-in meetings provide a unique opportunity for patients and caregivers to connect with others ‘in the same boat’. A chance to share stories, feelings and coping strategies.
  • Resource Library provides patients with access to education and information materials about their disease
  • Patient Information Binder helps to organize a patient’s activities - from medication routines to radiation therapy

If you require more detailed information about brain tumors, or the programs and services offered at The Pencer Brain Tumor Centre, please click here to be connected to The Pencer Centre website.

Research

In addition to unique patient programs and personalized care for both patients and their families, The Centre is also a leader in promoting clinical research in brain tumors and has a dedicated facility for clinical trials. The Centre serves as a hub for brain tumor clinical trails in North America, and works collaboratively on select research projects with The Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumor Research Centre at The Hospital For Sick Children, making Toronto a world leader in brain tumor research and patient care.

In the summer of 2004, The Pencer Centre, led by esteemed Medical Director Dr. Warren Mason, was on the front lines of a ground-breaking discovery in the treatment of the most deadly type of brain tumor, Glioblastoma Multiforme. A new combination of drugs has been shown to dramatically improve the prognosis for newly-diagnosed patients. For the first time in over 30 years, there is new hope for brain tumor patients at The Pencer Centre and around the world.

Major Research Breakthrough Improves Survival For Patients With Newly-Diagnosed Brain Tumors

“Finally we have something that's a positive that's going to make an important impact on survival for patients who suffer with the most malignant of brain tumors,” said Dr. Warren Mason, Medical Director of The Gerry & Nancy Pencer Brain Tumor Centre. Dr. Mason is referring to a major research breakthrough that was announced at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in New Orleans in June 2004. It is the first significant advance in brain tumor research and treatment in 35 years, and has been shown to dramatically improve the prognosis for patients with newly-diagnosed Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), the most malignant of brain tumors.

Briefly, this trial evaluated temozolomide chemotherapy during and following radiation therapy for patients with newly diagnosed GBM. The results are dramatic: at two years patients who receive chemotherapy have a 26% survival, and those treated with radiotherapy alone have an 8% survival. This means that for a patient with a newly diagnosed GBM, the odds of being alive at two years from diagnosis have increased from less than one in ten to more than one in four. Amazing news! Importantly, the use of chemotherapy did not reduce patient quality of life; so living longer in this case does not come with a high cost in terms of side-effects.

The Pencer Brain Tumor Centre and Dr. Mason, along with the generous support of brain tumor patients willing to participate in the trial, played an important role in this breakthrough. Under Dr. Mason's guidance, the clinical trials team at The Pencer Centre enrolled 26 patients, making The Centre one of the largest contributing centres to participate in the study. Worldwide, there were 573 patients from 85 centres.

According to Dr. Mason, “the results of this study are so impressive, we are all confident that temozolomide with and following radiotherapy will become the new treatment for patients with newly-diagnosed GBM worldwide. In fact, it is the treatment we are currently recommending at The Centre.”

“A heartfelt thank you to every one of our donors for giving so generously of your time and money,” said Holly Pencer Bellman, Executive Director of The Pencer Brain Tumor Centre. “It is because of your support that we are able to make these giant leaps forward. Together, we will find a cure for this devastating disease.”

To read about the study in detail, please go to www.nejm.org or The New England Journal of Medicine, March 10, 2005. The article is titled Radiotherapy plus Concomitant and Adjuvant Temozolomide for Glioblastoma.

Centre Staff
  • Dr. Warren Mason, Medical Director
  • Dr. Norm Laperriere, Associate Medical Director
  • Dr. Barbara-Ann Millar, Radiation Oncologist
  • Dr. David Shultz, Radiation Oncologist
  • Dr. Alejandro Berlin, Radiation Oncologist
  • Dr. Catherine Maurice, Neurooncologist
  • Dr. Navya Kalidindi, Neurooncology Fellow
  • Dr. Rosemarylin Or, Neurooncology Fellow
  • Dr. Hao-Wen Sim, Neurooncology Fellow
  • Dr. Jayson Co, Radiation Oncology Fellow
  • Dr. Kim Edelstein, Neuropsychologist
  • Sonia Silva, Adminstrative Assistant
  • Cheryl Kanter, Social Worker
  • Maureen Daniels, Coordinator
  • Mariya Bakalets, Clinical Trials Coordinator
  • Elena Chizhov, Clinical Trials Coordinator
  • Dolores Dholah, Ambulatory Care Nurse
  • Mary Jane Worthington, Ambulatory Care Nurse
  • Wilhemena She, Ambulatory Care Nurse
  • Ilyse Lax, Rehabilitation Consultant
  • Connie Ziembicki, Registered Dietitian
Stories of Courage

There are many, many stories of courage from patients at The Pencer Centre. Each month we’ll include a new story from one of our patients, so please bookmark this page and visit often for a new ‘story of courage.’

Appreciation for Life
by Karlene Nation, Reporter and Producer, CTV Television, Toronto

I have a new found appreciation for life these days. I take nothing for granted. I’m happy to wake up to a new day and grateful to be alive.

Six years ago I woke up and discovered that I was blind. It was the most frightening moment of my life. Hours later, doctors were in a race against the clock to try to save my life after they discovered I had a brain tumor. It happened on Saturday, July 25th, 1998. The events on that day are permanently seared in my brain. I headed into work at CTV Television where I work as a reporter and producer. I was on an assignment with cameraman Jeff Wood, chasing leads for a story about a mid-town house fire.

But something wasn't right. I had been experiencing a maddening headache for five days. This was the sixth day and the headache had gotten progressively worse. I popped Tylenols to try to dull the throbbing pain to no avail.

It literally felt like my eyes were being pushed out of the sockets. I thought I was going to pass out. Jeff had to drive me home. Fortunately, my mother Veta Robinson was home. My mom, who is a nurse, took one look at me and rushed me to Oakville Trafalgar Hospital. The doctors asked how long I had been experiencing this headache. I told them five to six days. I mentioned I was involved in a hot air balloon accident five days prior.

I was assigned to cover a hot air balloon festival in Milton a week before the headaches started. The hot air balloon ride was incredible. That is, until we hit turbulence. The heavy wind thrashed the balloon about from side to side and before we knew it, the balloon literally fell out of the sky, with me screaming my head off. I thought I was going to die. The balloon bounced up and down a few times before coming to a stop. I remember banging my head a couple of times on the side of the basket. I thought I was ok when I came out of the basket, but the headache started two days after this incident.

An x-ray revealed that there was a huge mass at the base of my skull on the right side of my head. The doctors ordered an ambulance to take me to Toronto Western Hospital, which specializes in neurosurgery.

I awoke to find myself in an MRI machine. The MRI revealed that I had a pituitary brain tumor. It's a very common benign brain tumor that is usually easily removed. But in my case - everything that could go wrong with the tumor went wrong. It was bleeding rapidly in my head and eventually cut off my eyesight. My sister Annette, discovered that I was blind. I could feel her face - but couldn't see her.

The doctors rushed me into the operating room. They told my family it was very unlikely I would regain my sight. My neurosurgeon said once a patient loses their sight prior to surgery, the chances of them recovering their sight are slim to none. My family started to pray for me. I woke up hours after the surgery, flicked open my eyes and miracle of miracles - I could see. I could see my mom, my sisters Annette and Ninia and my son Jan-Michael Nation. We all burst into tears of happiness. But the happiness was short lived. My doctor discovered a major problem with my sight. They discovered I had double vision and I had lost all of my peripheral vision. I had, in effect, lost 50 percent of my sight and was seeing two of everything all the time. I was told that this condition would not improve. I would remain this way for the rest of my life. I barely had a chance to absorb this disturbing information when I contracted meningitis in the hospital. My doctors discovered that I had a hole in my head. I couldn't believe it. “What do you mean I have a hole in my head" I demanded.

The doctors said it came about after my operation to remove the brain tumor. I had to undergo yet another operation to close this hole in my head. Doctors sliced my upper thigh, took tissue from my leg and stuffed it in my head to close the hole. I often joke that I have foot in head problems.

After three months in the hospital and almost a year of recovery - I finally went back to work as a reporter and producer at CTV. I look back at this experience and quite frankly would not change any of it. I'm not happy about losing my sight but I'm grateful that I can see even though my sight isn't perfect.

This experience has made me very strong. I was always a strong person with great inner strength. But this experience has shown me that I can survive just about anything.

Life often throws us curves and we have to find a way to deal with these challenges. I feel blessed to have such an amazing family. I could not have pulled through this ordeal without my mother, sisters and my son. They are my rock.

Life is good, life is great. We must appreciate and be grateful for every new day.

Patient Testimonials