Henry Ford Neurosurgeon Calls Senator John McCain’s Glioblastoma Diagnosis “Difficult”

July 20, 2017

DETROIT – A renowned Detroit neurosurgeon says Senator John McCain’s diagnosis of an aggressive brain cancer is challenging but not without hope.

McCain’s doctors said they recently performed a craniotomy to remove a glioblastoma just behind the 2008 presidential nominee’s eyebrow. He was recovering at home in Arizona.

“The prognosis is a difficult one; patients live on average about 16 months,” said Steven Kalkanis, M.D., chairman of neurosurgery at Henry Ford Health System and director of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute. “But we’ve had patients who have lived several years.”

“Patients with aggressive brain tumors like Senator McCain’s now have hope,” added Dr. Kalkanis, a national leader who heads the Brain Tumor Section of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the largest group of brain tumor neurosurgeons in the world. “This is probably one of the most hopeful times we’ve had in recent memory for brain tumor treatment because of recent clinical trials. For the first time we’re seeing many, many options for these patients that didn’t really even exist a few years ago.”

Kalkanis said about 17,000 Americans are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year. “Finger-like projections” invade healthy brain tissue, with symptoms corresponding to the cancer’s location in the brain.

“Anyone with a malignant brain tumor like glioblastoma, such as the one that Senator McCain had, will require aggressive surgical removal,” Kalkanis said. Advanced therapies light up the cancerous cells of the projections so neurosurgeons can remove as much of the tumor as possible, he added. “But after surgery, very specific radiation and targeted chemotherapy – drugs based on precision medicine that match the molecular genetic profile of that particular patient.”

Kalkanis said that glioblastoma tumors often grow back. Doctors then re-treat the mass with precision medicine and targeted therapies again.

Patients often return to their normal lives after treatment. McCain and his doctors will need to decide how that works best for the senator, based on his symptoms and treatment plan, Dr. Kalkanis added.

In The News:
TIME Magazine: "John McCain Had a Craniotomy to Remove a Blood Clot"
NBC News: "What Is Glioblastoma? McCain’s Brain Tumor Is an Aggressive Type of Cancer"
NBC News: "McCain Flies Back to Senate. Is It Too Soon After Surgery?"
FOX News: "Dr. Marc Siegel: John McCain may be in the fight of his life but don't count him out"
Fox2 Detroit: "Doctor: McCain's brain cancer is a 'rare', 'tough diagnosis'"
WXYZ Detroit: "Metro Detroiter who survived aggressive brain cancer has advice for John McCain"

EDITORS: Raw interview clips are available at Dr. Steven Kalkanis INTV 7.20.17

Brenda D. Craig