Duke is expert at fighting tumor facing John McCain

(Beau Minnick/CBS North Carolina)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Duke Health is widely regarded as one of the best medical centers in the country when it comes to treating the kind of brain tumor that Arizona Sen. John McCain is now fighting.

Nearly a decade ago, Duke treated the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy for the same deadly brain cancer.

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“What our bread and butter here at Duke is and what we’re known for internationally is, number one, the treatment of brain tumors,” said Dr. Peter Fecci, a Duke neurosurgeon who runs the brain tumor immunotherapy program at Duke.

While doctors at Duke are experts at fighting the tumor, called a glioblastoma, Fecci said they also are realistic.

“We don’t really discuss cures for it,” he said. “We more so discuss holding it at bay. I think here at Duke we’ve been some of the best at doing just that, holding glioblastomas at bay for as long as possible.”

Sometimes, Fecci said, patients have lived for years after diagnosis. Glioblastoma has taken the lives of several high-profile figures, including Kennedy and Beau Biden, the son of the former vice president.

Fecci said this tumor is very rare.

Fecci also said many of the patients diagnosed do get some of their treatment at Duke.

McCain is being treated in Arizona.

“I think there’s a very decent chance that at some point we would hear from Senator McCain or any of the other institutions around the country who would want further opinion or if Senator McCain himself wants to know what additional therapies might be available,” said Fecci.

One example of an additional therapy offered at Duke is a vaccine that people get after they are diagnosed with the cancer that helps stimulate the immune system to fight the tumor.

Duke doctors said they are working on getting FDA approval for that treatment.

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