Jamie Bras

Jamie Bras had a wonderful start in life. He grew up with a father who loved helping other people. “He had a remarkable reputation for just being there for everybody who needed him,” says Jamie. His father, Robert Bras, continues to help people to this day thanks to the legacy he began before succumbing to gallbladder cancer ten years ago.

When Robert asked his doctors, “What can we do to bring this disease to its knees?” their answer was to invest in new drug development. And so, with a generous $3.5 million gift, The Robert and Maggie Bras and Family New Drug Development Program was created to speed up the availability of promising new drugs to patients at The Princess Margaret.

“Once cancer spreads within the body, drug therapy is the only type of treatment that is effective,” explains Dr. Malcolm Moore, Head of Medical Oncology and Hematology and Director of The Robert & Maggie Bras and Family New Drug Development Program. ”But cancer is complex, and we have to learn why one patient responds well to a promising new drug, while another patient doesn’t respond at all.”

Towards the end of his fight with cancer, Robert participated in a clinical trial and received the new super drug Gleevac (one of the most effective targeted drugs that has been developed to date). It provided him with a short remission, but his disease was very advanced by this time.

Just six years after the program was created, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre received an unprecedented endorsement from the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). PMH is the only non-U.S. site to receive both a phase I grant and a phase II contract from NCI for early drug testing. When asked how his father might feel about such an accomplishment, Jamie said, “He would have nothing but praise for all the people involved in the program, and he would be proud that he was able to get the ball rolling.”

When asked what or who at the hospital has impressed him the most, Jamie pointed to the collaboration of effort. “At The Princess Margaret, everyone is committed to the same level. There is a cohesive attempt by everybody to really be a team, and help everyone in any way possible.”

Jamie, his wife Leah and son Robert Jr. have just given their own gift of $257,000 to support the program that Robert created. “One of the goals of our gift, in my mind, is to ‘be that example’. Whatever it can do to raise the level of involvement of everybody…that is a benefit I would like to see.”

Reviewed: October 2013