Meet the Team

Meet the Team: Gastrointestinal Cancers Care

Learn more about the experts providing care for patients and their families living with gastrointestinal cancers.

Dr. Christine Brezden-Masley

Dr. Christine Brezden-Masley is a practicing Medical Oncologist and the Director of the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital as well as the Medical Director of Cancer Program for Sinai Health in Toronto, Canada. She obtained her PhD in Medical Biophysics at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto and her Medical Degree from the University of Toronto. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and senior scientist for the same Clinical Research Group at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute for Sinai Health in Toronto, Canada.

Dr Brezden-Masley is the founder of the COMET (Community Oncologists of Metropolitan Toronto) Clinical Trials Consortium, a web-based virtual network promoting cancer clinical trials throughout the Toronto region. She treats both breast and gastrointestinal (colorectal and gastric cancers) malignancies, which are her major areas of research interest. Her main area of clinical research is cardiotoxicity from cancer therapy and she has been the Co-Chair of the Annual Canadian Cardio-Oncology Network meeting, a collaborative national meeting improving cardiac heath in patients with cancer and is currently the President of the Canadian Cardio-Oncology Network.

Dr. Ron Burkes

Dr. Ron Burkes is Professor of Medicine at The University of Toronto and staff medical oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital/Princess Margaret Cancer Centre/University Health Network in Toronto. He was on the medical oncology training committee for the University of Toronto for 23 years and the program director for the medical oncology training program from 1996 to 2005 during which time he introduced the academic half day, the longitudinal clinic experience, the annual medical oncology research day and the staff medical oncology outstanding teaching awards. He was also the director of the Clinical Teaching Unit at the PMCC from 1999 to 2005 and established the teaching curriculum for the internal medicine residents rotating through the PMCC. He is now the Medical Oncology Mentorship Facilitator for the Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto.

He has won numerous teaching awards including Departmental and University wide awards on 18 occasions, the Anderson Award in Program Development and the Hasselback Teaching Award at PMCC. He has presented at many local, provincial, national and international meetings.

His research interests include lung and GI malignancies with a primary interest in lung, colorectal and gastric cancers. He has numerous publications including 122 peer reviewed, 157 non-peer reviewed and 2 book chapters.

Dr. Abdulazeez Salawu

Dr. Salawu is currently appointed as Staff Medical Oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in the Division of Medical Oncology and Hematology, University of Toronto. He treats sarcoma and gastrointestinal tract cancers. He underwent specialty training in Oncology in Sheffield, United Kingdom and subsequently completed fellowship training in Toronto. Prior to this, he obtained Masters’ and Doctoral degrees from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, during which he studied structural and functional genomics, disease models and biomarker development. He is the recipient of Novartis Oncology Young Canadian Investigator Award and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Merit and Young Investigator Awards. His research interests are in translational oncology, biomarker and drug development.

With ten highly experienced colorectal surgeons and surgical oncologists on staff, our surgical team is the largest in the GTA. The colorectal cancer surgical team is considered a national leader in the treatment of colon and rectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Physicians from around the globe come to Mount Sinai Hospital to participate in fellowships to learn from us. Our surgeons provide consultation services for surgeons and oncologists across Canada.

Dr. Mantaj Brar

Dr. Mantaj Brar is a colorectal surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital with clinical expertise in inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. He is an assistant professor and surgeon-investigator in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Brar’s research interests are in health outcomes in IBD patients and the use of advanced statistical methods in observational research.

Dr. Savtaj Brar

Dr. Savtaj Brar is a surgical oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. His clinical interests include gastric cancer, colorectal cancer and soft-tissue sarcoma.

Dr. Anthony de Buck

Dr. Anthony de Buck is a colorectal surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital with a clinical interest in inflammatory bowel disease and minimally invasive surgery. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery. He graduated as MD at the University of Leuven, Belgium, where he did his surgical training. After four years as a colorectal surgeon at the University Hospital of Leuven in Belgium he moved to Toronto to start his practice at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Alexandra Easson

Dr. Alexandra Easson is a general surgical oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. She graduated from medical school at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and completed her general surgery residency at the University of Ottawa. She was a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and completed a clinical fellowship in surgical oncology at the University of Toronto. She received an MSc in clinical epidemiology at the University of Toronto where she studied patient outcome measures after palliative surgical interventions. Her major clinical and research interests are in the management of breast, melanoma, and colorectal malignancies as well as surgical palliative care.

Dr. Anand Govindarajan

Dr. Anand Govindarajan is a surgical oncologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto. He completed medical school and a residency in General Surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Govindarajan’s clinical practice involves the care of patients with peritoneal-based malignancies and gastrointestinal cancers, including gastric, small bowel and colorectal cancer. He is part of the only peritoneal malignancy program in Ontario, which is based at Mount Sinai Hospital. His primary research focus is to study and narrow the gaps between current practice and best evidence in the treatment of these diseases, through the use of health-services research methods and knowledge-translation techniques. He is also interested in studying and improving cancer outcomes and quality of life in patients with peritoneal-based malignancies.

Dr. Erin Kennedy

Dr. Kennedy is a colorectal surgeon at Mount Sinai with a clinical interest in colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. She is an associate professor in the Department of Surgery and Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto. Dr. Kennedy leads a clinical research program in patient-centred care in oncology with the main focus to develop, evaluate and implement strategies to improve patient care in terms of quality, safety and efficiency. Dr Kennedy has led several multidisciplinary initiatives that include development and implementation of a synoptic MRI report for rectal cancer across Ontario. This quality- improvement project aims to standardize use of MRI, MCC, surgical and pathology techniques across Canada and run a phase II study to assess the safety of using MRI to select ‘good prognosis’ stage II and stage III rectal- cancer patients for primary surgery.

Dr. Helen MacRae

Dr. Helen MacRae is a colon and rectal surgeon. She completed clinical fellowship training in colon and rectal surgery at the University of Toronto, and did further training in surgical education and in minimally invasive surgery. She is currently a professor in the Department of Surgery, and Program Director for the Colorectal Surgery Residency. Her areas of clinical expertise include minimal access surgery for inflammatory bowel disease and colon and rectal cancers. Her research is focused on surgical-skill acquisition and assessment and she has developed skills testing for certification for the American Board of Colorectal Surgery and developed a skills curriculum for surgical residents through the American College of Surgeons. She has led training programs in laparoscopic colon surgery for surgeons from across Canada and developed evaluation metrics for laparoscopic colon surgery.

Dr. Carol Swallow

Dr. Carol Swallow is a surgical oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and professor of surgery at the University of Toronto. She currently holds the position of Bernard and Ryna Langer Chair of the Division of General Surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr Swallow trained in general surgery at the University of Toronto, where she completed her PhD. She then underwent fellowship training in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Swallow has been a provincial and national leader in the management of gastric cancer and hereditary diffuse gastric cancer.

Pathologists play an essential role in diagnosing cancer.  Sinai Health is home to pathologists who specialized in GI cancers. Our team includes:

  • Dr. James Conner
  • Dr. Richard Kirsch
  • Dr. Aaron Pollett
  • Dr. Rob Riddell

Patients may meet one or more of our interprofessional team members as part of their care, including genetic counselling, nutritional counselling and support, enterostomal therapy, radiation oncology and medical oncology.

Patients who are receiving chemotherapy will meet an oncology nurse, who has specialized training in cancer care. Your nurse will administer your chemotherapy and supportive medications, conduct health histories and help you manage any side effects from treatment.

Oncology social workers are specially trained to help support patients and their families through their cancer experiences. They help navigate practical supports such as finances and transportation, make referrals to community resources and offer emotional support and counselling.

Some types of genes greatly increase the risk of developing cancer. A genetic counsellor provides genetic counselling and genetic testing to people with significant family histories of cancer to see if they have one of these genes. If we find that a person is at greater risk of cancer we can offer him or her approaches to reduce the risk of developing the disease – and passing the gene on to the next generation.

A dietitian can provide nutrition tips and strategies to patients having difficulty eating normally or who are losing weight as a result of their cancer or cancer treatments. Dietitians complete a full medical and nutritional history in order to provide nutrition education and recommendations tailored to patient’s individual needs.

Your treatment plan may include supportive care and/or cancer medications that are not funded by the Government or only partially covered by your private drug plan. A medication reimbursement specialist (MRS) can provide you with access to patient-support programs that can offer financial assistance, compassionate (free) drug or bridging drug supply while you wait for public or private coverage. The MRS also assists patients that do not have any drug coverage, providing information on the Trillium Drug Program and help with the application form. This support is available to help patients navigate the complex drug-support system that includes Government and private insurance payors and drug companies.

Oncology pharmacists verify and dispense your cancer related medications. The pharmacist will explain how your cancer medication works, its purpose and effects, the usual treatment schedule, how it is administered, what side effects to look out for and how to manage or prevent them. The pharmacist will also review your home medications and natural supplements, screen for drug interactions, and go over any dietary restrictions or medication precautions.

The clerical team is essential in keeping the clinic organized – from preparing of a patient’s first visit to booking of follow up appointments.

They also work closely with our volunteers to help make sure the clinic day runs smoothly and that patients receive that extra special care and attention.