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Sen. Ted Kennedy Has Brain Cancer

Doctors Diagnose Kennedy With Malignant Brain Tumor


What is the left parietal lobe involved in?

The left parietal lobe does control speech and various parts of language so that the decision needs to be made by the neurosurgeon of what type of surgical procedure is the safest.

Are radiation and chemotherapy standard?

Very standard. Even if it is located in an area that can be operated on more extensively, we know we cannot remove all of the tumor because it is what we call an infiltrating tumor. We talk about rootlets or tentacles of tumor that grow into the brain, almost like fingers. ... We don't [expect] to be able to remove all of it surgically, so we really rely on ... radiation and chemotherapy.

What is the prognosis for this sort of condition?

Well, it is a serious tumor. Patients tolerate the radiation and chemotherapy well, and we have many patients that have responded well to this combination of treatment. I think that's how we usually describe the prognosis -- it's a wait-and-see type of tumor where we have to see how well he responds to additional treatment.

How rare is this type of tumor?

Every year in the United States, there are about 18,000 new primary brain tumors, and over half of those tumors are some type of malignant glioma.

Do you think he may have had this for a while? How quickly do these develop?

That's a question that most people usually ask and we don't know. I think for some patients, it's very active or aggressive from the very beginning, and so they can grow very quickly, probably over weeks to months, and that's probably his type. Others start as a less active tumor and then over time become more active, and those can be present for a longer period of time. It sounds like his symptoms developed rather recently, and that suggests to us that it probably has not been there very long.

The doctors mentioned other tests and analyses. What types of additional tests would the doctors be doing?

I suspect they may be doing some more specialized pathologic studies on the [biopsy].

Is that a tumor grade or staging?

They may try to set tumor grade. This is not a tumor that tends to metastasize [spread] outside of the nervous system, so we don't typically stage it like we do other tumors that can spread to lymph nodes or to other organs in the body. But we do oftentimes a grading of the tumor cells to see how active or aggressive the tumors would be. That may be what they're working on with special staining and special tests from the neuropathologists. There are also some newer, what I would say investigational, studies looking at the pathology to try to determine what types of treatment might be appropriate for him, more specific types of treatment.

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