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Kennedy Watch

Kennedy WatchWith the news of Sen. Edward Kennedy's cancer diagnosis quickly unfolding, experts from Tufts are asked to weigh in on the situation.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.30.08] As details about U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's (D-Mass.) recent brain tumor diagnosis continue to emerge, media outlets have called upon various Tufts experts from both the political and medical fields to comment on the sobering news.

While investigating the source of what may have caused a seizure that the 76-year-old legislator experienced on May 17, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital discovered a malignant glioma tumor on the left parietal lobe of his brain.

As Kennedy's physicians continue to run tests in order to decide the best course of action, Alain Charest, Tufts Medical Center's assistant professor of neurosurgery, told The New York Times that, if possible, the doctors would most likely remove the tumor, though the gliomas tendency of cell movement may complicate such a procedure.

If this were the case, Tufts Medical Center'sneurosurgery department chairman Dr. Carl Heilman told the Times that the post surgery success rate is on Kennedy's side, with most people going back to work post-biopsy and responding well to the radiation therapy that follows.

"The tumor is generally well-controlled, and people can live a pretty much normal life," Heilman told The Boston Globe. "The question is: How long does that continue?"

If initial treatment does not work, Heilman told the Boston Herald that Kennedy's next step may be experimental treatment, which may not necessarily offer a cure.

"What we don't know is what's the best way to kill them," Heilman said, describing the type of tumor to the Herald. "We have treatments that are effective, but we don't have a medicine that cures everybody."

Aside from the support he receives from friends and families, Kennedy should benefitgreatly from the companionship of his two Portuguese water dogs, says Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

"He's very lucky to have those dogs. They're a solace and they can provide a lot of support," Dodman told the Herald."It's like therapy. They go into places where people are sick and bring a tremendous joy."

With no clear answer as to what the future may bring, speculation has begun to arise as to what this diagnosis may mean for Kennedy's political future.

"Unless it's clear his health is in danger by continuing and that his condition is irreversible, I think it's unlikely he would resign and I don't think he should,'' The Fletcher School's Michael Glennon, a professor of international law, told Bloomberg News. "Other senators have confronted debilitating conditions and it is possible the way the Senate works to ride out a condition like this even for an extended period of time.''

"Everyone has to take a deep breath," Professor of Political Science Jeffrey Berry told Reuters "There will be no pressure on him to step down even if he becomes quite ill from treatment. Nobody is going to be in a rush to replace him with a new senator who starts at the bottom of the seniority chain."

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