'Terry Fox of modern day'

Gord Downie's openness about his diagnosis with terminal brain cancer will leave a lasting legacy that makes him "a Terry Fox in the modern day," says a radiation oncologist who treated the late Tragically Hip frontman.

"He is an icon for Canadians everywhere. What Terry Fox did for cancer lives until this day, and what Gord has done for brain tumours I think will live on for generations to come," said Dr. Arjun Sahgal, director of the Cancer Ablation Therapy Program at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital, in a phone interview Thursday.

Downie revealed his diagnosis with glioblastoma — an invasive brain tumour with one of the poorest survival rates of any cancer — in May 2016. He died Tuesday night at age 53.

In the 24 hours after his death was announced, donation activity to a research fund named in his honour "increased notably," said Pamela Ross, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the Sunnybrook Foundation.

As of Thursday afternoon, donations for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research had reached $1.8 million, up about $100,000 from the previous day.

"We have never had daily expectations for this fund," said Ross. "The activity has increased and I think that's obviously in response to the tragic news of his loss and people's interest in simply doing something."

The fund will support the Gord Downie Fellowship in Brain Oncology and construction of the G. Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre.

"It's helped us and motivated us further to really try to invent the future of health care, now with brain tumours at the forefront," said Sahgal.

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