Kennedy Fought Aggressive Cancer

August 27, 2009

In a article detailing Sen. Ted Kennedy's battle with a form of brain cancer, Donald O'Rourke, MD, associate professor of Neurosurgery, discusses his team's research on the first noninvasive technique to identify genetic mutations associated with glioblastomas. They have measured blood flow to the brain with magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. A certain level of blood flow is linked to an underlying gene mutation associated with poor prognosis. Researchers hope to use this as a diagnostic tool and as an aid in targeting therapy to specific genes. "Perhaps more importantly, when you start treating these patients, if those changes in the MRI go away and it appears to be less aggressive, we may be able to say that our treatment is working," O'Rourke said. Already the researchers can use the MRI method to see if the patient is responding to treatment, and can make treatment selection based on it. They are still working on using it as a diagnostic tool. O'Rourke expects this method to be widely available with the next year or two.

In a segment on 6 ABC, Kevin Judy, MD, associate professor of Neurosurgery, discusses the poor prognosis associated with glioblastomas. He notes that the tumor arises from brain tissue itself, making it especially aggressive. "The brain doesn't perceive it as being different, so it can't localize it, it can't restrict its growth," he said. "Whenever you have a very prominent member of society who goes public about a disease process, like Sen. Kennedy has done, it brings a lot of awareness." article

6 ABC segment