With just a few months under her belt as the first Medical Director of the Cancer Program as well as Director of the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre at Sinai Health, Dr. Christine Brezden-Masley, says she is settling in nicely – and is ready to bring a new vision for how patients receive cancer care. “It’s a great hospital with a great culture, and there is impressive leadership here,” she notes. And while her respect for the existing work around cancer – particularly our world-renowned breast, colorectal, lung cancer and sarcoma programs – is evident, she has big plans and big ideas to take Sinai Health’s cancer care experience to the next level.
“There’s a great opportunity to bring our different areas of expertise together and build something together as a group,” says Christine. “This means an even more streamlined experience, with multi-disciplinary services for patients available. Whether they are looking for support from a dietitian, psychiatrist, social worker, palliative care, rehab program or genetics to have a greater understanding of their disease – patients have a full spectrum of services available. This allows us to go even further in our focus of fully supportive care for each patient.”
A big part Christine’s vision is creating opportunities for patients to receive cutting-edge treatments. “We are working with the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, and building the necessary infrastructure so that we can bring more clinical research trials to Sinai Health,” says Christine. “The best way to move oncological therapeutic care forward is to test novel therapies by enrolling patients in trials. Clinical trials support both patient care and bring us closer to new discoveries in cancer research.”
Christine is also taking innovative leaps with technology, genetic sequencing and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to her role at Sinai Health. “Eventually, we want to genetically profile every advanced cancer patient, along with their tumor, then use AI and machine learning to capture this patient-cancer data, and use it to understand therapeutic efficacy,” Christine shares. From these developments, researchers will be able to continue to develop targeted personalized cancer treatment.
Before arriving at Sinai Health, Christine has spent her career as a medical oncologist, and a leader in the cancer care and research fields, particularly for breast and gastrointestinal cancers. She currently serves as the President of the Canadian Cardio-Oncology Network and is the founder of the COMET (Community Oncologists of Metro Toronto) Clinical Trials Consortium, a web-based virtual network promoting cancer clinical trials throughout the Toronto region. She is in the process of bringing two inventive programs to Sinai Health, including SHE-CAN, a nurse-led model for supporting women through breast cancer treatment, specifically anti-estrogen treatment, and IRON GUT, a web-based program for people with GI cancers, to ensure that their iron levels are where they should be so they can safely receive chemotherapy and other treatments.
Even with this history and vision, Christine never loses sight of what is most important to her – patient care. She still sees patients every week in her breast clinic at the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre and her GI clinic on 12 North. “Supporting patients through their cancer journey is my personal mandate,” says Christine. And she looks forward to a future of top-notch care for everyone. “My dream is the same as every oncologists’ dream, that regardless of where you are across Canada, patients will have equitable cancer care, and timely access to the best therapies including multidisciplinary supportive care.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. To give women a better understanding of the risk factors for developing breast cancer and overall breast health, the clinicians, nutrition and exercise experts from The Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital have developed an app. Visit www.bebreasthealthy.ca to learn more and download the Be Breast Healthy: Learn and Lower Your Cancer Risk app.
Dr. Christine Brezden-Masley with patient Suzanne Horvath. Suzanne has been Christine’s patient since 2016, when she was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer. “Dr. Brezden-Masley is extremely knowledgeable in the area of cancer care and is constantly seeking new and innovative treatments. At the same time, she also recognizes the needs of her patients on an emotional and empathetic level. I always feel my questions are answered and that we are walking the cancer journey together,” says Suzanne.