Singer Tom Parker Reveals Glioblastoma Diagnosis

By Steve Blanchard - October 17, 2020

British singer Tom Parker, best known as a member of the boy band The Wanted, has shared that he is "devastated" after being been diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor that has no cure.

Parker, 32, shared the news on Instagram Oct. 12 that he had been diagnosed four weeks prior.

"We are all absolutely devastated but we are gonna fight this all the way," Parker wrote on Instagram. "We don’t want your sadness, we just want love and positivity and together we will raise awareness of this terrible disease and look for all available treatment options. It’s gonna be a tough battle but with everyone’s love and support we are going to beat this."

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Hey guys, you know that we’ve both been quiet on social media for a few weeks and it’s time to tell you why. There’s no easy way to say this but I’ve sadly been diagnosed with a Brain Tumour and I’m already undergoing treatment. We decided, after a lot of thought, that rather than hiding away and trying to keep it a secret, we would do one interview where we could lay out all the details and let everyone know the facts in our own way. We are all absolutely devastated but we are gonna fight this all the way. We don’t want your sadness, we just want love and positivity and together we will raise awareness of this terrible disease and look for all available treatment options. It’s gonna be a tough battle but with everyone’s love and support we are going to beat this. Tom and Kelsey xxx @ok_mag

A post shared by Tom Parker (@tomparkerofficial) on

A diagnosis like Parker’s can affect a patient at almost any age, and regardless of when a patient is diagnosed with glioblastoma, the outlook is never good.

Dr. Rob Macaulay, neuropathologist, Moffitt Cancer Center
Dr. Rob Macaulay, neuropathologist, Moffitt Cancer Center

“Unfortunately, early detection is of limited benefit for most brain tumors,” said Dr. Rob Macaulay, a neuropathologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. “But this is strikingly variable with age. Many tumors arising in children are not glioblastoma and some can be cured with surgery and/or chemoradiation.”

Glioblastomas have two parts to them: a solid part and an infiltrating part that co-exists with the normal functioning brain tissue. Removal of that infiltrating part is often not possible while keeping healthy brain tissue intact.  That said, removal of the solid part is most often feasible and when done completely, can help patients survive longer. There are few glioblastomas that are completely inoperable.

Diagnosing glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain cancer, requires surgery and a biopsy. If a tumor is cancerous, treatment can vary based on the patient. Those diagnosed with glioblastoma typically live 10 to 22 months.

 “Glioblastoma is considered to be advanced by the time of diagnosis,” explains Dr. Solmaz Sahebjam, a neuro-oncologist at Moffitt and director of the Clinical Research Unit. “At this time, it is not curable, meaning there’s no way to eradicate all cancer cells. The aim is to control the tumor for the longest possible time and try to preserve a patient’s quality of life as it is going to be significantly affected by the tumor over time.”

Dr. Solmaz Sahebjam
Dr. Solmaz Sahebjam, neuro-oncologist and director of the Clinical Research Unit at Moffitt

Unlike other brain tumors that start in the body and spread to the brain, glioblastoma starts in the brain or spinal cord. Primary brain tumors are relatively rare, with fewer than 25,000 Americans diagnosed with them each year. Metastasized tumors, however, are more prevalent and an estimated 400,000 are diagnosed in the United States each year.

Ongoing research may slowly unlock new treatments for glioblastoma, including immunotherapy. A small trial reported by the University of California at Los Angeles in early 2019 found that patients with recurrent glioblastoma who were given the checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda® prior to surgery lived, on average, 417 days. That’s longer than the average survival rate of 228 days.

Glioblastoma suppresses the immune system, not only at the site of the cancer but throughout the body. That makes it difficult to find effective treatments, especially since tumors like this differ in their characteristics and behavior. Keytruda blocks a protein known as PD-1, which prevents T cells from seeing and attacking the cancer. By disabling that protein, the immune system can better attack a tumor.

There has also been some progress in the field of genetics, which may help scientists detect DNA signatures that could predispose some people to this type of cancer, according to Macaulay.

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