Gordon “Gord” Downie, lead singer for the Canadian pop/rock band, The Tragically Hip, died October 17, 2017 of glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer at age 53. Diagnosed in May 2016, Downie was mourned throughout Canada as the loss of a national music treasure. Downie’s death spurred wide publicity about the nature of glioblastoma brain cancer and the status of its treatment throughout Canada and the rest of the world, as has the glioblastoma diagnosis of U.S. senator John McCain.
The disease remains one of the deadliest cancers with little improvement in treatment over the past decade. Treatment options are few because the natural blood/brain barrier meant to protect the brain also prevents treatment medication from reaching the brain to attack the cancer cells. Primary treatment continues to be surgical removal of the tumor and radiation of the tumor site combined with chemotherapy. Because the cancer tumor is integral with healthy brain tissue it is impossible to surgically remove all traces of the cancer and so it reoccurs. Survival after diagnosis is usually limited to 12-to-18 months.