Your Healthy Family: UCHealth doctor explains aggressive brain cancer Senator McCain battled

11:11 AM, Aug 27, 2018

COLORADO SPRINGS – The form of brain cancer that has now taken the life of Senator John McCain is a worst-case scenario in terms of a diagnosis.  When the Senator’s diagnosis of glioblastoma became public in the summer of 2017 it was described as ‘very poor”.

When it comes to this most aggressive form of brain cancer, Dr. Robert Hoyer, a Hematologist and Oncologist with UCHealth Memorial in Colorado Springs says, it’s the worst kind of brain tumor a person can have.

“There are 4 different types of malignant brain tumors from the World Health Organization.  As the number or grade increases from one to four, the pace of cancer cell growth increases. The grade one tumors, for example, are treated with surgery and can be cured.  Whereas patients with higher grade tumors such as the grade four, what we also call a glioblastoma multiforme is the most aggressive form of brain tumor. It’s also not curable with surgery or any other treatments available to us at this time.”

Doctor Hoyer also adds that the short-term treatment options are few.  “There are only four drugs currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and one device approved to be used for the treatment of patients with these diseases.  While we can’t cure the disease, we can help to improve the quality of life as best as possible and help patients continue to be active and have more time with their families and friends.”

While Dr. Hoyer doesn’t know any of the specifics of Senator McCain’s case, he does say in general when someone who is a well-known public figure is diagnosed, it can help move much-needed research forward.  “Beau Biden’s death (for example) did raise a lot of awareness and was part of the Cancer Moonshot Program that is a huge research program funded to promote clinical research and genomic testing of cancer. Certainly, Senator McCain’s case also highlights the need for more research.”

In general Dr. Hoyer adds that once treatment of glioblastoma begins the tumor is usually kept them in check, or may even shrink for about a year on average and there are certainly exceptions in both directions on the timeline.

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