Much to the relief of well-wishers across the globe, internationally renowned skull base surgeon Hrayr Shahinian, M.D., of the Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles, has announced that "Frank is Dead."
"Frank" is the nickname that 9-year-old cancer patient David Dingman-Grover ascribed to his brain tumor, which many specialists believed to be inoperable. In a revolutionary departure from the traditional and highly invasive brain surgery known as a craniotomy, Shahinian utilized a highly advanced endoscopic technique to access and remove the walnut-sized tumor. A post-operative MRI as well as the pathology conducted on the tumor and double checked by two neuropathologists indicates that the youngster's cancer has been eradicated.
Dingman-Grover's story received international attention when his mother created a bumper sticker declaring that "Frank Must Die." The family auctioned the stickers on Ebay and was able to raise $40,000 to help defray costs not covered by medical insurance.
Removing the tumor posed a particularly daunting challenge for Shahinian due to it's central location at the base of the skull in an area known as the "Turkish saddle," which is fully encompassed by the three arteries responsible for supplying all blood flow to the brain. Furthermore, the region is bordered by the optic nerve and the pituitary gland, leaving an extremely limited approach to access the tumor. Lending added complexity was the fact that the tumor's growth resulted in thinner bone in the skull's protective structure around the arteries. After completing the tumor removal process, Shahinian injected the area with a substance known as Floseal, a foamy filler material that helps stop bleeding by sealing tissue. Thanks to the minimally invasive nature of the endoscopic procedure, Dingman-Grover's procedure lasted less than two hours and he was discharged from the hospital after a one-day recuperative period. Now under the watchful eyes of his highly capable team of oncologists, the youngster is expected to complete a final week-long round of chemotherapy before being put on a program of regular observation and follow up MRI testing by his physicians.
David Dingman-Grover was diagnosed in May 2003 with a grapefruit-sized malignant skull base tumor that chemotherapy later shrank to one-third of its original size. After being told that the boy's face would have to be removed in a radical attempt to access the tumor, the mother turned to the Internet and discovered Shahinian and his success in using his minimally invasive alternative to the craniotomy. (This relatively "barbaric" procedure involves making an incision from ear to ear, pulling back the skin to expose the skull, sawing off the top portion to reach the brain and attempting to correct the abnormality in question.)