After more than a decade of saving lives, doctors in the Greater Montreal area are using a new technology to save them.
Dr. Michael Lefebvre was in the hospital emergency department after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
A month before he died, Lefbvre was diagnosed by a fellow doctor with a rare form of the brain tumour called a glioblastoma.
His doctors found he had been diagnosed with an abnormal version of the rare tumour that attacks the brain, the brain stem.
It’s not clear how the glioma mutated, but Lefbrestre had no other symptoms and no family history of it.
The first-time diagnosis was a shock.
The hospital’s first response was to try to save his life by amputating his leg.
That didn’t work.
“I was in shock,” he said.
“You are supposed to live until you die.”
Doctors used CT scans to figure out that the glifmaiboma had mutated.
The doctors could only amputate a tiny piece of his leg, so the next step was to remove it completely.
The surgery took about three hours, and after six weeks the patient was in remission.
Lefbrovre was told his prognosis was good, and that his survival was likely.
“We were hopeful, but we didn’t have a clear picture of what was going to happen,” he recalled.
A few months later, the tumour was back and the glia were growing again, which meant Lefbecres leg would soon have to be amputated again.
He said he has been told by the doctors who treated him to expect a follow-up appointment in the future, but he didn’t know if the doctors would be able to do it safely.
“The doctors told me they would do it again,” Lefbrevc told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak program.
“They told me that the patient has already passed, that it’s a really good chance of success.”
Doctors say it’s not just about the chance of survival.
They’re also using the new technology in a way that can save lives by helping doctors make a better diagnosis and by helping them avoid unnecessary surgery.
The technology uses electrical signals to identify the tumours cells, which can then be detected with a machine called an endoscopy.
The tumour is identified and the tumorous cells are removed.
This is not a routine procedure.
Lenean Fagan, Jennifer Gagliano and Eric Deschamps were all involved in this study.
They said they were surprised to see how successful this technique was in helping them make a diagnosis and reduce unnecessary surgery by getting rid of the tumoured tumours.
“It’s really remarkable how this is being used,” said Gaglviano.
“There are a lot of people who have had this very successful experience, and we’re finding that a lot more of our patients have been successful than have been found with the traditional surgery,” said Deschamp.
“When we were first doing this study, we didn`t think we would be doing anything to improve our prognosis,” said Fagan.
“But this is something that we are excited about, and it is an incredible tool.”
Dr. Thomas Schlecht, the director of the McGill Cancer Center, said the research is proof that the new cancer-fighting technology can be used for a number of other purposes.
“This is the first time in the history of our country that we have seen an approach that uses this technology to reduce the risk of cancer,” said Schlech.
The researchers say they will continue to study how to better use this technology in the long term, but are confident that it can be put to other uses.
“Hopefully, this will be the first step towards something that can be applied in a broader scope of the population that is being studied,” said Lefbfrevs doctor.
“So this is the kind of research that is going to allow us to do things that we haven’t been able to currently do.”
The team also says that they’re hoping to expand the research in the coming months.
With files from CBC Radio One’s DayBreak program.