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Doctors: Kennedy Brain Surgery a Success

NPR's Richard Knox and Renee Montagne on Kennedy's Cancer Treatment

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Knox and NPR's Melissa Block on Monday's Surgery

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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy underwent surgery at Duke University Medical Center on Monday, two weeks after he was diagnosed with an especially lethal type of brain cancer.

According to a statement released by Kennedy's chief neurosurgeon, Dr. Allan Friedman of Duke, the surgery "was successful and accomplished our goals."

Friedman said Kennedy was awake during the surgery and would experience no permanent neurological effects from the surgery.

After a brief recuperation, Friedman said, Kennedy will begin targeted radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, along with chemotherapy.

Prior to the surgery, Kennedy said in a statement that he expected to be hospitalized at Duke, in Durham, N.C., for about a week.

Friedman is a renowned expert in neurosurgery and neuro-oncology, the study of brain cancer.

He's "one of the thought leaders in the field," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

Friedman has done extensive research on glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of malignant glioma. Friedman's name was listed on more than a dozen research studies related to glioblastoma presented at a cancer meeting currently going in Chicago. Many of the papers involved chemotherapy for glioblastoma.

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So far, the senator's doctors have not released information publiclly about the specific type of brain tumor Kennedy has, only that it is a "malignant glioma." The type of glioma will determine Kennedy's prognosis.

Kennedy was hospitalized May 17 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after a seizure.

Kennedy said that over the past few days, he and his wife, Victoria, "along with my outstanding team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, have consulted with experts and decided that the best course of action for my brain tumor is targeted surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation."

Kennedy said he selected a team of neuro-oncologists from Boston's Massachusetts General and Duke University Medical Center.

Kennedy said that after his treatment, "I look forward to returning to the United States Senate and to doing everything I can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president." Kennedy has endorsed Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Malignant gliomas are diagnosed in about 9,000 Americans a year. In general, half of all patients die within a year. The brain tumor research center at Duke is conducting several clinical trials in malignant glioma.

But current statistics on survival may be outdated, since they reflect the surgeries and other treatments patients had in the past. The field of neuro-oncology is rapidly advancing and newer techniques and drugs appear to be increasing the length of time patients live after diagnosis.

Kennedy likely will receive the chemotherapy drug Temodar during and after radiation, Brawley said. Kennedy also may be treated with Avastin, a newer targeted drug to deprive the tumor of its blood supply, though it is still experimental at this stage of treatment.