"These tumors are very infiltrative," Yu said. "The idea is to get as much of it as possible, particularly those you can see on the MRI. Then the parts you can't see with MRI are treated with conventional therapies like radiation and chemotherapy."
"The data say clearly that if you can resect [cut away] a substantial part of the tumor, it's much better than doing a biopsy alone," Fisher said. "It gives better quality of life, more time to the patient, and it also allows you to try other options. It opens other doors."
After surgery, patients are usually asked to undergo chemotherapy and radiation.
"The best treatment for brain cancer is if the primary cancer can be removed without significant effect," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La. "The standard treatment afterward is to be treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation for about six weeks followed by chemotherapy five days a month for about six months afterwards."
Temodar (Temozolomide) is the chemotherapy drug of choice these days. It's relatively new and has the advantage of being taken orally, Brooks said.
More recently, Yu and other researchers have been making headway with vaccines for this type of brain tumor. Yu and his co-authors just presented results of a phase II study on Monday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, in Chicago. "We've identified that a strong immune response is correlated with increased survival."
Other experts speculated that Sen. Kennedy may, in fact, already be enrolled in a vaccine trial currently under way at Duke University. "Having undergone surgery does make available other options, including this trial at Duke," Fisher said.
Results from the Duke trial, also presented at ASCO, reported median progression-free survival in patients r
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