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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Dies at 77
Date:8/26/2009

able to perform surgery because it was a tumor on the left side that could potentially affect speech centers, but they were able to do it," Morrison said. "It is generally known that if the tumor can be resected [removed], patients do tend to do better, and the more that can be removed the better because there's less actual tumor cells that can come back."

After surgery, Kennedy was reported to have undergone chemotherapy and radiation, which is standard procedure for this type of cancer. Specifically, the senator was said to have received proton therapy, which is a form of radiation. "It's a slightly different means of delivering radiation, just a different type of beam," Morrison explained.

Kennedy most likely underwent chemotherapy with temozolomide (Temodar), which has been used since the early part of the decade and became the standard care in about 2005, Morrison said.

The addition of Temodar to the medical armamentarium against brain cancer was the first in four decades.

"Before that, the last big breakthrough was the addition of radiation 40 years ago," Morrison said. "There have not been big steps made in the treatment of brain tumors. There's been a lot of work, but the breakthroughs haven't been coming fast and furious like in many other cancers."

Experts are hopeful that glioblastoma vaccines currently under development will one day yield benefits.

One vaccine being developed at Duke University reported median progression-free survival in patients receiving the vaccine plus chemotherapy of 16.6 months, compared to only 6.4 months of recurrence-free survival in those not taking the treatment.

"There's always great hope that one of the vaccine trials will turn out to be the next big thing," Morrison said. "Chemotherapies have significant side effects and make the patients pretty sick, and we don't want to do that. Therapies that go just to the brain won't make people sick."

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