American Brain Tumor Association’s Statement on the Passing of Senator McCain and the Disease that Took His Life

Chicago, August 28, 2018 – The American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) is saddened to learn about the passing of war hero and United States Senator John McCain. Senator McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma in July of 2017 and fought this devastating disease for a little over a year before succumbing to it this past Saturday, August 25.

Glioblastoma represents about 15 percent of all brain tumors (both malignant and non-malignant) and about 47 percent of malignant brain tumors. This disease has no bias and affects people from all walks of life. Glioblastoma is considered to be the deadliest brain tumor, with the average life expectancy after diagnosis being between 11 and 15 months.

“The passing of Senator McCain is a tragic reminder of how far we have to go in the development of treatments for glioblastoma,” ABTA President & CEO Ralph DeVitto said. “It is simply unacceptable that patients who receive this diagnosis are left with few treatment options. It must become a priority for us all to dedicate the resources necessary to fund research that will help move us in the right direction. One organization cannot make the impact needed alone, and the ABTA is dedicated to collaborating with everyone who is dedicated to fighting this disease.”

Glioblastoma tumors are made up of various different types of cells; therefore, treatment can be difficult because some tumor cells may respond well to certain therapies, while others may not be affect at all.

“The nature of glioblastoma makes treatment extremely difficult,” said Nicole Willmarth, PhD, ABTA Chief Mission Officer. “The tentacle like growth of the tumor makes it almost impossible to completely remove with surgery. In addition, many drugs that may block growth of glioblastoma cells in the lab may not work in patients because of the blood brain barrier. All of these challenges, and more, make it difficult to destroy the entire tumor.”

The ABTA continues to fund investigators who are making strides towards advancements in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of glioblastoma and other types of brain tumors.

“This year we’ve funded over $700,000 in glioblastoma related research, and more than $13 million since 1973,” said Brian Olson, ABTA Board Chair and brain tumor survivor. “While we take pride in our efforts, we know that much more funding is needed and we will remain vigilant in raising dollars towards the treatment of brain tumors and providing resources and support for all those who are affected.”

About the ABTA
Celebrating 45 years of impact on the brain tumor community, the American Brain Tumor Association was the first national patient advocacy organization committed to funding brain tumor research and providing support and education programs for patients, caregivers and their loved ones. For more information, visit or call 800-886-ABTA (2282).