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With Cancer Diagnosis, What's Next for Kennedy?

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Sen. Ted Kennedy was diagnosed this weekend with a malignant brain tumor. The 76-year-old Massachusetts Democrat and 46-year senator has glioma, the most common type of adult brain cancer.

BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, no sex in this city. I'm Rachel Martin.

MIKE PESCA, host:

And I'm Mike Pesca. It's Wednesday, May 21st, 2008. Do explain.

MARTIN: Well, you have decided - I'm not going to take part in this, but you have decided that this will be a "Sex in the City" free zone.

PESCA: "Sex and the City."

MARTIN: Oh, what am I saying?

PESCA: The movie, well, no sex - look.

MARTIN: "Sex and the City."

PESCA: We get it. We get it. They've got a movie coming.

MARTIN: We're not going to talk about it, basically.

PESCA: They've got a movie coming out. I just - maybe because we're in the city, I have been deluged with information about this movie.

MARTIN: There've been news articles, people talking about the tours. These tours - people can travel from the West Coast to New York and people will take them to the movie. They can drink cosmos.

PESCA: Everyone who is interested in this movie knows about this movie. You're done. We have 100-percent saturation, and just to show I'm not being sexist, and what's wrong with being sexy?

MARTIN: Yeah.

PESCA: Same with Indiana Jones, we get it. The movie's coming up, OK? Enough with the features on the news.

MARTIN: For the record, I'm really excited about both of these movies.

PESCA: I'm excited - I don't need to watch actual news segments on real crystal skulls, real archaeologists, bull-whip manufacturers hoping sales go through the roof. Don't need it.

MARTIN: OK.

PESCA: So that's some of the news we won't be talking about.

MARTIN: Now, some of the news we will be talking about, some serious stuff. An update from China. NPR has a team of producers and reporters on the ground there who've been covering the ongoing story of the earthquake and the aftermath. Threats of aftershocks have some people still sleeping outside for fear of collapsing buildings. Even people whose homes survived the earthquake are sleeping outside because they're just still afraid.

PESCA: And no man is an island unless he owns an island and is a Libertarian. You've heard of homesteading. We'll dig into the phenomenon called sea-steading.

MARTIN: And a music review of the new "Grand Theft Auto" game. Yes, that's right. The music in "GTA" is actually pretty good. I was astounded. As a non-gamer, when I started surfing through that game, it was pretty good stuff on there. A lot of it was designed just for the game. We'll get the day's news headlines in just a minute, but first...

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PESCA: A tough diagnosis for Senator Ted Kennedy, brain cancer. The 76-year-old Massachusetts Democrat remains in the hospital in Boston as doctors work out a treatment regimen for a malignant glioma, the most common form of adult brain cancer.

MARTIN: The senator's treatment is likely to consist of radiation and chemotherapy. NPR science correspondent Richard Knox lays out Kennedy's prognosis.

RICHARD KNOX: Generally, for gliomas, the prognosis is not good. But we really do have to be careful here at this stage as we don't know what type and grade of glioma the senator has. A more favorable type might respond to treatment so well that he could, you know, outlive the cancer. On the worst end, a glioma is among the worst kind of cancers you can get and it can kill within a year. But, you know, we shouldn't jump to conclusions.

PESCA: The senator's wife, Vicky, said of the diagnosis, we've been pitched a real curve ball but she also said her husband is in good spirits and quote, "leading us all, as usual, with his calm approach to getting the best information possible."

MARTIN: Reaction was quick in the Senate, where Kennedy had served for 46 years. Across the political spectrum, senators spoke of Kennedy's strength as a politician and as a person.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): The reason that he has been able to help deliver voting rights and immigration rights and helped people who are vulnerable is because he fights. He fights for what he thinks is right.

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Senator HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Just as he has fought, year after year, to try to make the changes that will benefit our nation and the world, I know that he's going to fight with all of his might.

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Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): Senator Kennedy is a real fighter. We all know that.

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Senator JOHN WARNER (Republican, Virginia): The same strength with which he has spoken so many times in this chamber will be the strength that he'll draw on, hopefully, and we all pray for his recovery.

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Senator RICHARD DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): Ted has spent his entire life caring for those in need. It's time for those of us who love Ted and his family to care for them and join in prayer to give them strength.

PESCA: That montage consisted of Senators Obama, Clinton, Specter, Warner and Durbin. Republicans and Democrats. West Virginia's Robert Byrd, the only senator who served longer than Kennedy, grew especially emotional yesterday on the Senate floor.

Senator ROBERT BYRD (Democrat, West Virginia): (Crying) My thoughts and my humble prayers are with Senator Kennedy, my dear friend Ted.

MARTIN: Senator Kennedy is expected to rest at home this weekend and begin treatment next week. He hasn't indicated how the diagnosis will affect his political career, but his current absence will surely be felt on the Hill. He's played some role in almost every piece of social welfare or health legislation passed since the mid-1960s. In fact, signing is scheduled today for a bill barring the use of genetic information by employers and health insurers, a bill that Kennedy worked to get passed for more than a decade.

PESCA: You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now let's get some more of today's headlines with the BPP's Mark Garrison.

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