- Rock royalty Eddie Van Halen fought a valiant battle with multiple cancers before he passed away two years ago, on October 6, 2020, at age 65.
- Van Halen also battled a brain tumor, and treated it with gamma knife radiosurgery.
- Other treatments for brain cancer include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
- A new way to treat brain cancer is called tumor-treating field technology. It works by disrupting the division of cancer cells and – in some patients – thus delaying the progression of the cancer.
Actress Valerie Bertinelli was married to Van Halen from 1980 up until their 2007 divorce, has called the rocker her “soulmate.” Bertinelli and Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, 31, who is also a musician, recalled his dad’s empowered battles against multiple cancers, and, later, a brain tumor.Read More
In 2019, his father had a motorcycle accident, after which he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His son remembers how his famous dad was a fierce fighter throughout his health challenges and that those challenges continued to mount. He tells Stern, “But as time went on, [things] kept stacking up and stacking up. It just never let up.”
New Treatments for Brain Cancer
Van Halen treated his brain tumor with gamma knife radiosurgery, reports NME. Other treatments for brain cancer include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Duke University Medical Center neuro-oncologist Dr. Henry Friedman says in an earlier interview there is progress being made in the treatment of brain cancer. Dr. Friedman and his Duke colleagues are investigating a new therapy that combines the modified poliovirus and immunotherapy.
“The modified poliovirus is used to treat this tumor, by injecting it directly into the tumor, through a catheter. It is designed to lyse the tumor and cause the tumor cells to basically break up” says Dr. Friedman. “I think that the modified poliovirus is going to be a game-changer in glioblastoma,” explains Dr. Friedman, “but I should also say that its reach is now extending into melanoma soon to bladder cancer.”
Optune for Brain Cancer Treatment
A company called NovoCure has developed tumor-treating field technology for people like Van Halen who have brain cancer. It works by disrupting the division of cancer cells and – in some patients – delaying the progression of the cancer.
Optune is the brand name for the tumor-treating fields’ delivery system. It was launched in 2011 and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015.
Tumor-treating fields, like Optune, in combination with standard treatment, have added two years to the median survival rate for patients battling brain cancer.
Eddie Van Halen’s Cancer Battles
Eddie Van Halen passed from his cancer battle on October 6, 2020. He battled lung cancer, as well as tongue and throat cancer.
Van Halen said he suspected that his throat cancer was caused by putting copper and brass guitar picks in his mouth for years, but there’s no sufficient evidence to suggest that copper and brass are linked to cancer risk.
The two main causes of throat cancer include smoking and excessive drinking, and Van Halen had been doing both since he was a kid, he once said in an interview with Billboard. “I was an alcoholic, and I needed alcohol to function… I started drinking and smoking when I was 12. I got drunk before I’d show up to high school,” Van Halen told Billboard in a 2015 interview.
Throat cancer can also be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S.. According to Dr. Ted Teknos, scientific director of UH Seidman Cancer Center, the rate of HPV-related cancers has increased dramatically since the mid-90’s.
“If you look at the percentage of patients who developed throat cancer, cancer of the tonsils, and the base of the tongue in the 80s compared to the 2010s, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers has gone up by 300%,” Dr. Teknos tells SurvivorNet in an earlier interview. “So there is no myth. HPV causes throat cancer, and it’s a sexually transmitted disease.”
Coping with Grief After Losing a Loved One to Cancer
Most people experience deep grief after losing a loved one to cancer. If you’ve lost a loved one, or are feeling grief about a recent cancer diagnosis, reach out to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker to get help. You don’t have to go through it alone; there are trained professionals at the ready who can work with you to help you process your grief.
Dr. Scott Irwin is the Director of Supportive Care Services Cedars-Sinai, and in an earlier interview, he speaks about the grief that can accompany a cancer diagnosis and loss. Dr. Irwin says, “Grief comes in waves. It often gets better over time, but on certain days, it can look like depr
He continues, “And other days, people look perfectly normal and can function. They’re grieving the change in their life, the future they had imagined is now different.”
Dr. Irwin explains, “In cancer care, sometimes, we’re actually forcing some body changes that are beyond what would be normal aging, and that can be even harder for people to deal with where they don’t feel like themselves.”