Ford to begin an aggressive course of chemotherapy within the next 48 hours; doctors are "optimistic" about their ability to treat his cancer.
Dr. Zane Cohen, the colorectal surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital who is overseeing the medical team taking care of the mayor, announced Wednesday afternoon that Rob Ford has a malignant abdominal tumour. It’s been identified as a pleomorphic liposarcoma—a rare type of cancer that arises out of the body’s fatty tissue.
More details from his announcement, including the course of treatment doctors have planned for the mayor:
- “Sarcomas in general arise from soft tissue structures, so it’s not within an organ—it’s not in the colon, it’s not in the liver—it’s in the tissues such as fatty tissue, blood vessels, nerves, connective tissue, muscle,” Cohen explained. Ford’s tumour is specifically a liposarcoma, or one that arises in the body’s fatty tissue.
- “Pleomorphic” refers to the fact that Ford’s tumour involves 60 different cell types, Cohen explained, “and that makes it a very rare tumour and a very difficult tumour.”
- The primary abdominal tumour is about 12×12 centimetres. Doctors have also discovered “a small nodule” in the left buttock and hip area; the nodule is much smaller, about two by two centimetres. “We have biopsied that, and it is part of the same tumour,” Cohen said. The tumour and nodule are not physically contiguous. They have not discovered cancer anywhere else in Ford’s body.
- Cohen would not say what stage Ford’s cancer is at, but he did describe it as “a fairly aggressive tumour, mainly because these types of tumours are often slow-growing; to get to the size that it is now, it’s often several years.” A CT scan Ford had in 2011 revealed no tumour, which means this one has developed over the past two or three years. When asked about success rates in treating this kind of tumour, Cohen declined to answer, citing the rarity and variability of sarcomas.
- “However, we are optimistic about this tumour,” Cohen went on. “The reason I say that is that we have experts sitting in-house that treat, manage, and research on sarcoma—[we are] one of the largest three sarcoma centres in Ontario.” He also said that the particular kind of tumour Ford has “is more responsive to chemotherapy than most sarcomas.”
- The course of treatment doctors are recommending begins with chemotherapy. It will consist of in-patient of chemotherapy for about three days, followed by a washout period of 18 days. That cycle will then be repeated. Due to the aggressiveness of the tumour, “We are looking at fairly intense chemotherapeutic agents,” Cohen said.
- Cohen said that Ford would likely be able to go home during the washout periods. When asked if the mayor would be able to return to work during those times, Cohen said, “I think that he will be able to be functional, but I think he is going to have some rough days—that’s just common sense.”
- Once those initial rounds of chemotherapy are complete, doctors will assess how the tumour has responded. Depending on the results, Cohen said, “it may require further cycles of chemotherapy, there may or may not be radiation involved, there may or there may not be surgery involved. It will all depend on the response to the initial treatment.”
- “There’s no known association with sarcomas,” Cohen said, when asked if a person’s general health might contribute to the development of this kind of tumour.