Death of Singer Tom Parker Highlights the Danger of Glioblastoma

The death of Tom Parker, a member of the British boy band, The Wanted, was announced yesterday, less than two years after he revealed his diagnosis of an inoperable, stage four glioblastoma. His wife, Kelsey Hardwick, and other band members confirmed that he had passed away while “surrounded by his family and his band mates.”

Parker’s untimely passing brings attention to glioblastoma, also called glioblastoma multiforme, which is an aggressive form of cancer that affects the brain or spinal cord, is incurable, and is often extremely difficult to treat, as was potentially the case in Parker’s inoperable tumor.

The methods used to diagnose glioblastoma include:

  • Neurological examinations, wherein a doctor evaluates factors including vision, hearing, balance, and coordination, as well as presence of associated symptoms like headaches, nausea, vomiting, or seizures.
  • Imaging, typically via MRI but also using CT and PET scans, can help identify the size and location of a tumor in a patient’s brain.
  • Biopsy, which may be viable based on the individual characteristics of a tumor, can be used to assess the cellular makeup and potential aggressiveness of a glioblastoma.

Like many other cancers, treatment options for glioblastoma multiforme can include surgical removal of the tumor, radiation therapy, targeted inhibition medications, and chemotherapy; However, despite these treatments effectively prolonging survival in patients with glioblastomas, they are not able to fully cure the disease, and contemporary treatments are thereby mostly focused on slowing disease progression and managing related symptoms.

Despite the grim prognosis, researchers are conducting investigations of the brain’s glial cells to design and evaluate new treatments to prolong survival and ultimately advance towards curing patients with glioblastoma.