Glioblastoma Deaths in DC

2009: Ted Kennedy Dies

Ted Kennedy waged a battle against one of the most lethal of all brain tumors — glioblastoma At first, the Massachusetts senator kept active seeing friends and going on his beloved sailboat and almost seemed to have the upper hand.

But despite his access to the best medical treatment available, Kennedy lost the fight of his life just 15 months after his diagnosis. Kennedy and others unlucky enough to learn they have glioblastoma receive a grim prognosis: about a year or a little more is the average life expectancy.

The outlook hasn’t changed all that much in the last 40 years, according to Dr. Eugene S. Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center.

"It is a rapidly growing tumor that does not respond to treatment," he says. "Even if you remove it surgically, the outcome is the same. The transformation of normal brain cells into tumor cells continues even after surgery."

2015: Beau Biden Dies

Brain cancers like Beau Biden’s kill about 15,000 adults each year. A variety of malignant brain and central nervous system tumors kill about 15,000 people in the United States each year, often after difficult courses of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, according to experts and data from various cancer organizations.

Officials have not disclosed the type of brain cancer that killed Vice President Biden’s son Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden III at age 46 on Saturday night. But assuming he suffered from a primary cancer — not one that spread from another part of the body — the most likely is a glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the brain’s supportive tissue, two experts said. Patients with Grade 4 glioblastomas — the most aggressive type — survive a median of 14.6 months after diagnosis, said Brian Alexander, a radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston . . . Unlike most other cancers, brain tumors generally do not spread to other parts of the body. They kill by interfering with normal body function, depending on their location in the brain. Malignancies can develop in most areas of the brain, Alexander said.

2018: John McCain Dies

U.S. Sen. John McCain’s death from glioblastoma on Saturday at age 81 brought new attention to a disease that affects nearly 700,000 Americans. Officials at the National Brain Tumor Society, based in Newton, Mass., said in a written statement that they were "profoundly saddened" by McCain’s death, and called for a nationwide effort to combat the disease.

Glioblastoma has been described as an “aggressive” form of brain cancer that usually occurs in adults.

McCain, an Arizona Republican who served in the Senate for more than 30 years, was diagnosed with the disease in July 2017 and succumbed to it 13 months later. The same type of cancer had previously taken the lives of Beau Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, in 2015, and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in 2009.

“Glioblastoma is one of the most complex, drug-resistant, and adaptive cancers there is,” said David Arons, CEO of the National Brain Tumor Society. According to the group, glioblastoma can afflict men, women and children "of any race, socioeconomic background or party affiliation."

The statement concludes with a call to action to find “more effective treatments and ultimately a cure.”

“As Senator McCain often implored during his campaign for president, we as a country are stronger when we dedicate ourselves to causes greater than [our] own self-interest.

“Let this be the moment in our history that we decide to collectively take on glioblastoma and brain tumors with the same earnest [resolve] with which we dedicate to our other national ills.”

  • Verizon delivered a portable tower known as a "cell site on wheels" — free of charge — to the McCain property in June, after the Secret Service began inquiring about improving coverage in the area. Such devices are used for providing temporary capacity where coverage is lacking or has been knocked out, in circumstances ranging from the Super Bowl to hurricanes.

  • In July, AT&T followed suit, wheeling in a portable tower for free to match Verizon’s offer. "This is an unusual situation," AT&T spokeswoman Claudia B. Jones said. "You can’t have a presidential nominee in an area where there is not cell coverage."

  • McCain and his campaign have close ties to Verizon and AT&T. Five campaign officials, including manager Rick Davis, have worked as lobbyists for Verizon. Former McCain staff member Robert Fisher is an in-house lobbyist for Verizon and is volunteering for the campaign. Fisher, Verizon chief executive Ivan G. Seidenberg and company lobbyists have raised more than $1.3 million for McCain’s presidential effort, and Verizon employees are among the top 20 corporate donors over McCain’s political career, giving his campaigns more than $155,000.

  • McCain’s Senate chief of staff Mark Buse, senior strategist Charles R. Black Jr. and several other campaign staff members have registered as AT&T lobbyists in the past. AT&T Executive Vice President Timothy McKone and AT&T lobbyists have raised more than $2.3 million for McCain. AT&T employees have donated more than $325,000 to the Republican’s campaigns, putting the company in the No. 3 spot for career donations to McCain, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politic.