Sen. John McCain and Sen. Ted Kennedy, leaders in the Senate on opposite sides of the aisle, died exactly nine years apart of the same cancer.
Sen. McCain died of glioblastoma on Saturday at age 81, and Sen. Kennedy died of the disease on the same day, August 25, in 2009 at age 77, according to TIME. Beau Biden, former vice president Joe Biden‘s son, also died of glioblastoma in 2015 at age 46.
Glioblastoma is considered a highly invasive tumor in the central nervous system because its cells reproduce extremely quickly. Those who are diagnosed with the malignant tumor have a median survival rate of about 14 to 14.5 months.
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About five percent of patients can make it to five years or more with the treatments that are currently available, but “it’s a very difficult diagnosis,” Dr. Elizabeth Stoll, a research fellow at the U.K.’s University of Newcastle’s Institute of Neuroscience, previously told TIME.
In early September, Sen. McCain discussed his diagnosis on 60 Minutes. “Some say 3 percent, some say 14 percent. You know it’s — it’s a very poor prognosis,” Sen. McCain said. “So I just said, ‘I understand. Now we’re going to do what we can, get the best doctors we can find and do the best we can, and at the same time celebrate with gratitude a life well lived.’”
Sen. McCain underwent chemotherapy and various surgeries in the hopes of extending his life after doctors discovered the tumor in his brain in July 2017. His family announced that he was discontinuing treatment the day before he died.
Sen. Kennedy survived 15 months after his initial diagnosis.
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Sen. Kennedy’s son, former U.S. representative Patrick Kennedy, spoke about his father’s friendship with McCain to CNN’s John Berman, saying that “they both recognized and loved each other’s passion.”
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