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Brudnoy battles rare cancer

Radio host to work during treatment

WBZ-AM (1030) radio talk-show host David Brudnoy announced yesterday that he has a rare form of cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma. Brudnoy -- who also teaches journalism at Boston University, is a film critic for Community Newspapers Co., and is a commentator on UPN 38's "Nightcast at 10" -- said he will continue to work at his various jobs at whatever level the regimen of treatment will allow.

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare but highly treatable form of skin cancer. Characterized by malignant cells that grow directly beneath the skin and in hair follicles, it appears most often on parts of the body that get sun exposure. Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center treated about a dozen similar Merkel cases in the past year, according to Dr. Tom Lynch, an oncologist at MGH.

"This type of cancer usually responds well to radiation and chemotherapy, and Mr. Brudnoy's course of treatment will involve both of these therapies," an MGH statement reported.

Lynch said that because there are no signs that Brudnoy's cancer has spread to the liver or bones, it is curable. "I don't want to minimize this very serious form of cancer, but it can be treated in this form," said Lynch, who added that about 3,000 cases of Merkel cell carcinoma are diagnosed annually in the United States.

The cancer is not believed to be related to HIV, which Brudnoy has lived with for nearly two decades and nearly died from in 1994.

Brudnoy, 63, said that he noticed two bumps on his face in late summer, one resembling a pimple on his forehead, the other on the right side of his ear. A dermatologist performed a biopsy on one bump in early September and discovered that it was Merkel cell carcinoma. A biopsy of the second bump confirmed the diagnosis. Further testing determined that the disease had spread locally.

"In 1994, they said I'd be dead within the year, and here I am nine years later. I just keep on trucking," Brudnoy said yesterday before he was scheduled to go on the air and tell listeners the news. "The will to survive is very useful. Whether my weakened immune system makes this really awful, I don't know, but my brain is determined to combat this. . . . This getting-well thing is a full-time job."

Brudnoy kept a confident tone yesterday, saying that he plans to continue working as his health allows.

"I know the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation are severe, and I expect that I'll have days in which I just can't work. Radiation can adversely affect the voice. Some people would consider silencing my voice a blessing, but I beg to differ," Brudnoy said. "I'm a good patient, though patience is not one of my usual virtues, and I'll be cranky at times -- frightened, too -- and probably on many occasions a royal pain in the butt as I drive the doctors nuts with my questions and uncertainties."

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