- More than 25,000 Americans are diagnosed with a malignant glioma every year. About 60 to 70 percent of these cancers occur in the deadliest form, glioblastoma, the type that took the life of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy in August of 2009, 15 months after he was diagnosed.
- Although medical science has made significant progress in treating several other cancers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only three new drugs that treat brain cancer in the past 35 years, and these prolong lives by only a few months. The life expectancy of a person diagnosed with glioblastoma remains 12 to 14 months, roughly the same as it was a century ago.
- The discovery and characterization of a tiny population of tumor-regenerating stem cells within brain tumors brings new hope that these deadly cancers can be successfully treated, possibly with drugs that are already on pharmacy shelves.
In May 2006 Dwayne Berg woke up on a gurney in a Seattle emergency room, an IV in his arm and a team of doctors and nurses working him up. The last thing the 42-year-old financial executive could remember was running on a treadmill at his gym, part of his regular fitness regimen. He had suffered a seizure and tumbled off the machine, and although he had not hurt himself in the fall, doctors had asked for an MRI scan of his brain to see if they could find a cause for the seizure.
They did, and the news was not good: the scan showed a large mass in the left frontal lobe that turned out to be a malignant glioma, a brain cancer that is almost invariably fatal. Berg underwent standard treatment: an operation to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation to eradicate any cancer cells that might remain.
This article was originally published with the title New Hope for Battling Brain Cancer.