According to the National Brain Tumor Society, around 94,000 people in the U.S. will receive a brain tumor diagnosis in 2023, and an estimated 19,000 will die of brain cancer this year.
Over the years, medical professionals have worked to improve the quality of life for patients, including a new targeted brain tumor therapy.
Ken Grey described his son, Billy, as spirited, athletic and full of light, and having a strong legacy that will live on.
“The doctor said, 'Do you want the good news or the bad news?” Grey recalled.
Just two weeks before Billy’s 13th birthday, he died following a two-year battle with a brain tumor. In memory of his son, Grey began fundraising through cycling and the National Brain Tumor Society.
In 2004, he and his wife brought an event to upstate New York, now known as the Team Billy Ride and Walk for Research.
“We want to find a cure, or we want to find effective therapies," Grey said. "And if it's not brought to the forefront of people's attention, it might be pushed off as secondary.”
Team Billy has raised over $2.8 million in funding for brain tumor research.
“My family’s focus has been let's make sure people are aware, let's celebrate our son's life,” Grey said.
While loved ones and medical professionals search for a cure, over the years, there have been some strides made in advancements for quality of life, some of which are happening at Albany Medical Center.
"This is the GammaTile, so this is the collegen in piece with the radiation implanted that we would put into the tumor cavity at the time of surgery, and it would deliver radiation therapy directly to the cells that need it the most," said Dr. Alexandra Paul, a neurosurgeon at Albany Medical Center.
GammaTile is the first FDA-approved treatment for brain tumors in over a decade. Albany Medical Center is one of six hospitals in the state to offer the new treatment and among 90 centers across the country.
"Surgery is often the first step in treatment, but often patients require additional treatment afterwards, chemotherapy and radiation. Navigating that post-operative course can become very challenging and overwhelming," said Paul.
More than 200,000 people a year are diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor in the U.S. Patients can undergo radiation in as many as 30 treatments over a period of several weeks.
"And if we can reduce that frequency in that need, that could improve not just the patient's quality of life, but also the caregiver's quality of life," Paul said.
The postage-sized tile is designed to delay tumor regrowth while protecting healthy brain tissue.
However, the treatment isn’t applicable for all, leaving the need for continued research and funding.