Brainstorm Health: John McCain’s Cancer, Marijuana and Breast Milk, Esperion Cholesterol Drug


Good afternoon, readers. This is Sy.

As you’ve possible heard, Sen. John McCain, former presidential candidate and a larger-than-life determine in American politics, handed away Saturday at age 81 following a battle with an aggressive type of mind most cancers.

There have been loads of tributes to and reflections on the Arizona Republican’s political profession and file of public service. Those will, little question, proceed to proliferate. But it’s additionally vital to house in on the insidious illness that claimed McCain’s life—an aggressive type of mind most cancers known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM, or simply glioblastoma, for brief).

A glioblastoma prognosis, statistically talking, quantities to a dying sentence. Brain and nervous system cancers normally are lethal. In reality, nearly one in three of the roughly 24,000 Americans identified with such cancers in 2018 are prone to nonetheless be alive 5 years later, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Glioblastoma particularly makes up 16% of all mind and nervous system cancers—and the numbers are much more dire in these circumstances, says the American Cancer Society. If the illness manifests between the ages of 20 and 44 (a comparatively uncommon incidence), there’s a 19% likelihood of survival 5 years after prognosis; amongst these 45 to 54, that drops to 8%; and for older Americans aged 55 to 64, the five-year relative survival charge is a dismal 5%. McCain was in his 80s when his prognosis was publicly revealed. (Beau Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, additionally died of the illness, but at the age of 46.)

Just why is the prognosis so dire? Loads of it has to do with simply how aggressive this particular form of tumor is, and the limitation of buzzsaw approaches such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Dr. Duane Mitchell, a doctor and professor of neurosurgery on the University of Florida, had this to say in The Conversation on Monday:

“An extra attribute of GBM is the invasive nature of the disease. GBM tumor cells primarily crawl away from the primary tumor mass and embed themselves deep throughout the regular mind, usually hidden behind a protecting barrier recognized on the blood-brain barrier,” Mitchell writes. “This invasive feature means that while neurosurgeons can often remove the main central tumor mass of a GBM, the invasive finger-like projections protrude into other areas of the brain. The distant islands of tumor cells that have migrated away cannot be effectively removed by surgery.”

Thus, the traditional programs of therapy for different kinds of cancers could not show efficient towards such a intelligent and malevolent foe. At the identical time, the complexities of the mind’s construction—and its crucial position in, nicely, all the pieces—have made it in order that we’ve got but to see the identical form of progress towards glioblastoma that we’ve got in so many most cancers, equivalent to immunotherapies and gene-based remedies for skin, lung, and blood cancers.

But scientists have sounded some (very, very early) notes of optimism in recent times. “[G]ene therapy, highly focused radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapies utilized in conjunction with vaccines” are being examined in experimental glioblastoma trials, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons notes—whereas including the sobering word that these early-stage applied sciences have solely boosted sufferers’ survival charges by a median of three months.

Read on for the day’s information.


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