Darren Daulton faces high recurrence rate for glioblastoma

Former Phillies catcher was diagnosed with brain cancer this week

Former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, seen here in an August 1994 file photo. (Akira Suwa/Staff file photo)

Darren Daulton's brain tumor will almost surely return.

  • The former Phillies catcher was diagnosed with glioblastoma this week.
  • The disease is an aggressive form of brain cancer that "comes back nearly 100 percent of the time."

Darren Daulton's brain tumor will almost surely return -- the question is how long that will take.

The 51-year-old former Phillies catcher was diagnosed with glioblastoma this week, after having had two tumors removed earlier this month.

The disease is an aggressive form of brain cancer that "comes back nearly 100 percent of the time," said Dr. Steven Brem, director of neurosurgical oncology at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center. 

But, Brem said, it's difficult to predict individual outcomes. Tumors can look similar to a pathologist, but their size, volume and location in the brain, as well as other biological and immunological factors, all influence how quickly the cancer returns.

The median survival rate is 14.6 months, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. That means half of patients live less than 14.6 months and half live longer than that.

The cancer is so deadly because of its high recurrence rate and because it spreads rapidly throughout the brain, Brem said.

And a reason the disease is hard to treat, the association says, is that the tumors contain many different types of cells, and those types may not all respond well to the same treatments.

Standard treatment after surgery calls for radiation and chemotherapy, followed by getting the patient into a clinical trial if possible, Brem said.

After Daulton’s July 1 surgery, Thomas Jefferson University hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Kevin Judy said "all of the tumors have been removed."

That could be good news for Daulton, a member of the Phillies' 1993 National League championship team.

"The more tumor that can be removed, the better the prognosis," Dr. John de Groot, a neuro-oncologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, widely considered one of the country’s best cancer hospitals, wrote in an April blog post about understanding glioblastoma.

Brem said a total removal was "a very good sign," and it's often difficult to fully remove a tumor without affecting the surrounding areas of the brain.

Glioblastoma has also been the cause of death for longtime Phillies coach John Vukovich, who was diagnosed with the cancer in 2006 and died five months later, and Tug McGraw, a former Phillies pitcher who won the 1980 World Series with the team. McGraw, the father of country music star Tim McGraw, had surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor in March 2003 and died in January 2004.

The cancer is the "most common and deadliest of malignant primary brain tumors in adults," according to the National Brain Tumor Society. It is most common in older people, and more common in men than women, the society says.

Common symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting, seizures and drowsiness. Other symptoms will depend on the tumor's location, and can vary from vision problems to memory loss to language difficulties.

Daulton played 14 seasons with the Phillies, where he hit 134 home runs, 189 doubles and had 567 RBI. He was selected to three All Star Games before being traded to Marlins in 1997, where won his first and only World Series title. He then retired from professional baseball.

Daulton, who hosts a show on 97.5 The Fanatic called “Talkin’ Baseball with Dutch,” was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2010.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or ebabay@philly.com. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.