Kennedy's Surgeon Deems Brain Surgery a Success Sen. Edward Kennedy is recovering from brain surgery at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. Doctors removed part of a malignant brain tumor Monday after the Massachusetts lawmaker was diagnosed two weeks ago. His surgeon has called the procedure a success.

Kennedy's Surgeon Deems Brain Surgery a Success

Kennedy's Surgeon Deems Brain Surgery a Success

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Sen. Edward Kennedy is recovering from brain surgery at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. Doctors removed part of a malignant brain tumor Monday after the Massachusetts lawmaker was diagnosed two weeks ago. His surgeon has called the procedure a success.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Senator Ted Kennedy came out of surgery yesterday with the words I feel like a million bucks, and his surgeon called the procedure a success. But details about the operation for brain cancer and the type of tumor Kennedy has are still sketchy. How long Kennedy can survive after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation is an open question. People with the kind of brain tumor Kennedy has - a malignant glioma - have varying degrees of survival. NPR's Richard Knox has more.

RICHARD KNOX: Doctors at Duke University operated on Kennedy for three and a half hours to get out as much of his brain tumor as they safely could. They still didn't say exactly what kind of cancer he has, so his prognosis remains unclear. Statistics say half the patients with malignant glioma die within a year or so.

Later this month, Kennedy is expected to go back home to Boston for stage two of his treatment - six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy - then another year of anticancer drugs.

One of the doctors who will play a big role in Kennedy's care at Massachusetts General Hospital is Tracy Bachelor, a brain tumor specialist. Bachelor isn't happy about the gloomy picture many have painted about Kennedy's future.

Dr. TRACY BACHELOR: Many have been upset and really this has provoked a lot of anxiety in many patients.

KNOX: Bachelor says things aren't always as bad as they used to be for patients like Kennedy. He goes to his computer and punches up a scan from another of his patients. Like Kennedy, Janice Durham was also diagnosed with a malignant glioma.

Dr. BACHELOR: So what we're looking at here is one of the initial scans that Janice had when she came under our care.

KNOX: It shows a golf-ball-sized glioma in the frontal lobe of her brain. Durham remembers the day when she had her first scan. She could hardly absorb the news.

Ms. JANICE DURHAM (Patient): They came out and they were ashen-faced and said that I had a mass in my brain and I needed to find a neurosurgeon. And the next day I was supposed to do a stress management workshop and get the oil changed in my van. So I sort of said, OK, I've got to get the oil changed in the van, do a stress management workshop and find a neurosurgeon.

KNOX: As it happened, Durham canceled that workshop and didn't get the oil changed. Unlike Kennedy, she didn't have surgery. Doctors said her glioma was too wrapped around vital brain structures for surgeons to operate. Durham's husband, Steven Suddick(ph), says the message they got was as gloomy as it could be.

Mr. STEVEN SUDDICK: One of the doctors that we talked with at Mass General said there is no hope, there is no hope. Everybody dies of this.

KNOX: But what else could she do? With two adolescents at home, Durham embarked on the treatment course that is similar to the one that Kennedy will probably get. But unlike Durham, the Senator will probably get radiation and chemotherapy at the same time, instead of one after another. Recent evidence suggests that prolongs survival.

Durham's response to radiation and chemotherapy was spectacular. After a year's treatment, she and her husband went to Bachelor to hear the results of her latest MRI scan.

Ms. DURHAM: He came in and he said that the MRI looked good. And we said so what - like how big is it? What's left? And he said, well, there's nothing left. And we said, well, what do you mean there's nothing left? And he said, well, it's all dead tissue. There's no active tumor anymore. So we were just sort of stunned, completely stunned.

KNOX: Janice Durham is now doing fine five years after she got malignant glioma. She has one big advantage over Kennedy. She was 50 when she got her diagnosis, 26 years younger than Kennedy is. Even so, experts say it's impossible to know if Kennedy will be among those who outlive the usual expectations.

Richard Knox, NPR News, Boston.

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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.

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.