Senator Ted Kennedy Has Brain Cancer

May 20, 2008

Parietal Lobe of Brain

Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D-Mass.), 76, has been diagnosed with brain cancer. The malignant brain tumor, a glioma, was found during a brain biopsy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston following Kennedy’s Saturday seizure at his Cape Cod, MA home. Survival rates for this type of brain tumor average six to eight months, with a few patients surviving about two years. Kennedy’s tumor is in the left parietal lobe.


Senator Ted Kennedy

About 9,000 Americans per year are diagnosed with malignant gliomas, or glioblastoma multiforme. The grade 4 aggressive tumors are the most common type of brain cancer in adults. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the prognosis for patients with malignant gliomas is poor. Glioma is a primary central nervous system (CNS) tumor, originating in the brain. Treatment consists of chemotherapy and radiation. Motor strength for the right side of the body is controlled by the left parietal lobe; speaking and writing abilities may be affected. Gliomas do not metastasize via the bloodstream, but can spread through cerebrospinal fluid, causing “drop metastases” to the spinal cord. The highly vascular tumors tend to infiltrate brain tissue, producing areas of necrosis and hypoxia (oxygen-starved areas). They often break down the blood-brain barrier in the area of the tumor. Even with surgical excision, gliomas almost always grow back.

Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) characterized Kennedy as one of the “last lions” in the Senate and “the single most effective member of the Senate.” Always considered a champion of the people, Kennedy, a 45-year political veteran and power broker, is pro-choice, supports gun control and is one of only five U.S. Senators who have come out in favor of same-sex marriages, which are legal in his home state of Massachusetts. Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) characterized Kennedy as “a fighter…a champion in fighting for health care for all Americans.”

Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy at American University

On 28 January, Sen. Kennedy upstaged President Bush’s last State of the Union address by endorsing Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President at American University’s Bender Arena in Washington, DC. In what was viewed as a generational passing of the torch, Kennedy said: “I feel change in the air. Every time I’ve been asked over the past year who I would support in the Democratic Primary, my answer has always been the same: I’ll support the candidate who inspires me, who inspires all of us, who can lift our vision and summon our hopes and renew our belief that our country‚Äôs best days are still to come. I’ve found that candidate.”

Sen. Obama said the news about the civil rights champion is “heartbreaking.” He said he wouldn’t be where he is today without Kennedy. Ironically, after the Kentucky and Oregon primaries today, Obama is expected to declare that he has won a majority of the 3,253 pledged delegates, easily topping the 1,627 delegates needed to make the claim.

Kennedy is the second-longest serving Senate member, with only Senator Robert Byrd (D.-WV) having served longer. The most poignant tribute to Kennedy came from Sen. Byrd, who cried as he said: “I love you. I miss you. Thank God for you, Ted.”

Read more about Senator Kennedy’s riveting endorsement of Barack Obama.

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