New Breakthrough

This isn’t just a story of surgical success, although it is that.

And this isn’t just a story of a grateful patient, although it is that too.

This is a story of how a surgical success led a grateful patient to make an investment that enabled the department of neurosurgery to push the limits of care and innovation. 

This is a hospital circle-of-life story.

A few years ago, Canadian Jack Hope became very ill with a massive meningioma – a brain tumour. The snowbird opted not to be treated in Florida and instead came home to one of the largest, busiest and most successful neurosurgery departments in North America.  

Jack was treated by Dr. Julian Spears, the head of neurosurgery at St. Michael’s Hospital. 

Jack’s decision to be flown to St. Mike’s impacted not just his own life, but the lives of many others with brain tumours. Because of his experience, Jack made several donations to St. Mike’s. One of those went to purchase the Pentero BL-400, a module that attaches to the microscope surgeons use when they perform brain surgery. 

Recently, in a first for a Toronto hospital, Dr. Spears performed brain surgery using 5-ALA, an amino acid that a patient drinks before surgery and that lights up highly malignant tumours in bright fuchsia. Attached to his microscope was the Pentero BL-400, enabling Dr. Spears to see the colourful spotlight.  

St. Mike’s is a leader in neurosurgery because our world-class surgeons are supported by donors who never say no. They put us at the forefront of minimally-invasive vascular neurosurgery. Now they are doing the same for patients with brain tumours. New discoveries like 5-ALA are the first chapter in an oncology revolution, according to Dr. Spears.

Jack Hope made it possible for Dr. Spears to see the tumour more clearly. So did Tim and Frances Price, long-time donors who fund Dr. Spears’ Term Chair in Cerebrovascular & Brain Tumour Surgery, which underwrote the $2,400-a-dose 5-ALA. Together, two families helped change how neurosurgeons treat brain tumours in Canada.   

As for Jack Hope? He remains healthy to this day.

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