Arizona Senator John McCain, 80, was diagnosed with brain cancer this week, and the specific type afflicted a previous U.S. senator, leading to the death of Massachusetts’ Ted Kennedy.
After battling brain cancer for more than a year, Kennedy died in 2009, at 77 years old, of glioblastoma, a fast-growing tumor that forms within the supportive tissue of the brain and the spinal cord, according to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
This type of tumor “usually cannot be cured,” according to the hospital. Beau Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, also died of the same cancer in 2015, about two years after his diagnosis.
Glioblastoma patients rarely survive more than three years, according to Reuters, but their odds may be getting better.
Dr. David Reardon is currently a neuro-oncologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute who treated Kennedy for the aggressive tumor when Reardon was at Duke University’s Brain Tumor Center. He acknowledged to WBZ how challenging glioblastomas are.
“Some of the tumor cells are able to persevere, mutate, and adapt and become resistant,” he told WBZ. “So the durability of the treatment, unfortunately, for most patients is not long-lasting.”
However, he added that new innovations could help a small number of patients have better odds.
“We do have a growing number of patients who are 3-years or 5-years or even 5 to 10 years who are doing well without tumor recurrence,” he said.
McCain’s doctors said he was recovering from surgery well and will face a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.
Ted Kennedy’s son and former congressman Patrick J. Kennedy shared his support for McCain on Twitter.
“Sen. McCain, you were there for my dad when he had a brain tumor,” he wrote online on Thursday. “All of America is here for you now—especially me and my family.”