Darren Daulton legacy: Fighting brain cancer, helping others with it

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Watch the report from Ali Gorman on Action News at 4 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2017. (WPVI)

Medically, Darren Daulton beat the odds of glioblastoma, surviving much longer than the average patient.

Action News spoke with an expert on Monday at Penn Medicine, who says that in the past three years there has been a lot of progress on the research side of glioblastoma.

It will take several more years for patients to see those benefits.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Donald O'Rourke says the average survival time for patients with glioblastoma is 15 to 18 months. Darren Daulton lived four years after diagnosis.

"Fortunately we are seeing patients out from their original diagnosis three, four, even five years and beyond, but it's not the majority," says Dr. O'Rourke.

He says the prognosis is poor because of how brain tumors grow.

"They don't grow in a well-defined mass. They really integrate in the brain," the doctor added.

So it's difficult to get all the cancer out.

He didn't treat Daulton, but says factors like his age, good treatment, and being in good physical shape likely played a role in his survival.

Former state representative Mike Vereb is on the board of the Darren Daulton Foundation, dedicated to providing relief for the financial burdens of others fighting brain tumors and brain cancer.

Vereb says Daulton approached cancer the same way he played baseball.

"Until it's the last inning and the last pitcher is throwing, you're still playing ball, and I really think he made that commitment to battle this cancer until the very last moment," says Vereb.

Through his foundation, Daulton has helped many others.

"Very committed to people; selfish was not in the man's vocabulary," Vereb says of his long-time friend.

The foundation will continue to support families of brain cancer patients.

Dr. O'Rourke says the loss of such a fan favorite helps raise awareness of glioblastoma, which translates into money for research.

At Penn, they're testing a treatment that uses the body's own immune system to fight brain cancer.
The CAR T-cell treatment has had big success in treating several hard-to-beat types of pediatric and adult leukemia.

Three weeks ago, an FDA advisory panel unanimously recommended approval for CTL019 (tisagenlecleucel), the first commercial medication based on this immunotherapy principle.

It was OK'd for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer in the U.S.

Dr. O'Rourke says there's still a long way to go, but he's optimistic.

"Of all the strategies I've been involved with during my career, I think this immunotherapy approach in some form - that form still needs to be defined - but I think that's the approach that's going to wind up to have the most success," he says.

Daulton is the 5th former Phillie to die of brain cancer: pitcher Ken Brett died in 2003, pitcher Tug McGraw and catcher Johnny Oates died in 2004, and former 3rd baseman and long-time coach John Vukovich died in 2007.

Despite the appearance, Doctor O'Rourke says right now there's no evidence of anything in the environment that we know causes brain cancer.

In lieu of flowers, Darren Daulton's family asked for donations to the foundation.

The Daulton Foundation and the Phillies are teaming up for a big afternoon at Citizen's Bank Park on September 17, against the Oakland A's.

The game begins at 1:35 PM.

And the foundation's annual Golf Tournament is scheduled for Monday, October 9th (Columbus Day).

All the money goes directly to help other families.
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