Brain Cancer Research

Meet the new Gord Downie Fellow in Brain Oncology

Gord Downie Fellow

Dr. Jay Detsky was born and raised in Toronto, not far from Sunnybrook. He studied Systems Design Engineering at University of Waterloo then returned to Toronto to finish a PhD and post-doctoral fellowship at the Sunnybrook Research Institute. He remained in Toronto for both medical school and his residency in radiation oncology.

Earlier this year, Dr. Detsky became the second Gord Downie Fellow in Brain Oncology at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre.

Here, Dr. Detsky talks about his research focus and what being the Gord Downie Fellow means to him.

What is the focus of your research?

My focus is on using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to better diagnose, treat, and evaluate the response to treatment for brain tumours.

These include primary brain tumours such as glioblastoma (the type of brain cancer Gord Downie had) as well as metastatic disease (cancer from outside the brain that has spread to the brain).

What led you to pursue this area of specialty?

Unfortunately, in central nervous system oncology, there are few long-term survivors. However, that means there is significant room to improve the treatments we can offer our patients. Radiation plays a primary role in many central nervous system tumours, and with my background in physics and technology, I feel that I can make use of the most advanced treatment techniques available to provide the best treatment for my patients.

My background will also allow me to advance research within central nervous system oncology to improve the outcomes for all patients, not just the ones I see at the Odette Cancer Centre.

What do you hope to achieve during your time as the fellow?

I want to learn as much as possible from all the great oncologists working at the Odette Cancer Centre. I want to learn from every patient I meet about what they are going through and how I can best help them deal with their diagnosis and manage the side effects of treatment. Finally, I would like to bridge the gap between our research partners in physics and imaging science and the clinicians that I work with every day to figure out how to best use new and exciting technological advances to improve patient care.

Are you a Tragically Hip fan?

I’m a huge Tragically Hip fan. I saw them twice live, and I can still vividly remember the hundreds of Canadian flags waving at the Cobo Arena as Canadians took over the city of Detroit for a show there in 2000. My only regret is not catching them live on their farewell tour.

What does it mean to you to be the second Gord Downie Fellow in Brain Oncology?

I’m incredibly proud to be the second Gord Downie Fellow. I’m grateful to the Hip and the fans who have supported this worthy cause to support young clinicians and researchers such as myself who want to help patients who, like Gord, are given the devastating diagnosis of a brain cancer.

It’s also an honour to follow in the footsteps of the first recipient of the fellowship, Dr. Sarah Ironside, who is an integral member of the multi-disciplinary central nervous system oncology team and who truly sets the gold standard for compassion and empathy in how she treats and guides her patients through their cancer journey.

I want to thank Dr. Arjun Sahgal, Dr. James Perry, and the entire central nervous system oncology team, as well as everyone who donated to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research, for this opportunity to work with and learn from world-class experts in the field of brain tumour treatment and research.

About the author


Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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