Efforts under way to help Columbia County brain tumor patients

  • Follow Health

Even though glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, is the most common malignant brain tumor, it’s also rare: Just two or three cases occur per 100,000 people in North America.

Back | Next
Businessman Ray Lilly, pictured with his wife, Suzanne, has been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumor.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Businessman Ray Lilly, pictured with his wife, Suzanne, has been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumor.

Yet, at least two of those patients are in Columbia County: Ray Lilly, 46, a co-owner of Hardwood Floors and More in Evans; and Deborah Marshall, 48, the executive director of the Columbia County Board of Elections.

A reception and silent auction for Lilly, who had surgery for a GBM in January, is being held today at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. Coworkers of Marshall, who is being treated at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital, are holding a fundraiser cookout Friday behind the Evans library.

Dr. Cargill Alleyne, a professor and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Georgia Health Sciences University, explained the challenges of patients diagnosed with a GBM.

Its name – glioblastoma multiforme – refers to the tumor, which originates in the glial cells that make up the majority of brain tissue, Alleyne said. The designation means the cancer cells take many different forms.

“It’s very rare in the very, very young,” Alleyne said. “It tends to occur in ages 50 and onward, although it can literally occur in anyone, including kids. It’s not that common, overall; it’s about two or three cases per 100,000 in North America, but it does happen to be the most common type of (brain) tumor that we encounter as neurosurgeons and neurologists.”

Unfortunately for patients, the GBM is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat.

“By the time a patient has been diagnosed with a GBM, the median survival is only about a year, 12 to 14 months,” Alleyne said.

The reason, Alleyne said, is that by the time a patient shows symptoms, or the GBM shows up on an MRI, “the tumor has literally spread outside the confines of any observable tumor... By the time you get an MRI scan and you see an area of tumor lighting up with contrast, the tumor cells have long spread beyond that border.”

That means surgery alone can’t cure a GBM, he said – though that hasn’t always stopped surgeons from trying.

“Back in the old days, when this was discovered, people would actually try to aggressively remove brain tissue, in fact to the point of removing almost half of one side of the brain,” Alleyne said. “They quickly realized that by the time it was discovered, there are sometimes tumor cells on the opposite side. So regardless of how aggressive you are with surgery, the tumor would still come back and end up killing the patient.”

Modern treatment options typically involve surgically removing as much of the tumor as possible, followed by whole-brain radiation treatment and chemotherapy, Alleyne said.

Marshall, who had surgery at MCG on April 9, is undergoing conventional treatment, family members said, while Lilly, whose surgery took place Jan. 19 at MCG, is being treated in a study program at Duke University, his wife, Suzanne Lilly, said.

For patients battling a GBM, the outlook for recovery often is bleak – but not unheard-of, Alleyne said.

“There are reports of long-time survivors,” he said. “In fact, one of my patients is now five years out from a GBM.”


• A fundraising reception for Ray Lilly will be held at 7 p.m. today at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. Tickets cost $40 at the door, and the event includes silent and live auctions. For information, go to sites.google.com/site/inittowinitray/.

• The “Lunches with Love” cookout for Deborah Marshall will be held 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Columbia County Amphitheater behind the library in Evans, with plates available for $5. E-mail reservations to marshallsfamfund@yahoo.com. Donations also may be made to the Marshalls Family Fund at any Georgia Bank &Trust location.

Comments (1) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
itsanotherday1 06/06/12 - 12:50 am
I lost an associate to glioma

I lost an associate to glioma (a category including glioblastoma) :http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/metro/2011-06-29/cyclist-was-witness-fight-live

Please support Ray and Mrs. Marshall; they can use all the help they can get.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs