Malignancy of Casey’s Tumor Confirmed

Times Staff Writer

Doctors officially confirmed Tuesday that the tumor removed from CIA Director William J. Casey’s brain last week was cancerous and that therapy will begin as soon as his recovery permits.

In a brief written statement, officials at Georgetown University Hospital said that Casey “remains in stable condition as he continues to recover from brain surgery” and that the CIA chief would undergo further tests.

However, a knowledgeable source said Tuesday that the CIA chief underwent secret treatment within the last 18 months for colon cancer. And, despite successful brain surgery, that source said, doctors now have diagnosed Casey as suffering from “multiple complications.”


‘In Tough Shape’

The source would not say with certainty whether those complications relate to Casey’s earlier bout with cancer. But the CIA director is “in tough shape,” the official said.

Colon cancer is the same ailment that led President Reagan to undergo abdominal surgery about 16 months ago. Reagan’s life is so closely scrutinized by the public that his medical treatment could not have been easily concealed under any conditions, the source said, but medical aid to the more secretive CIA chief was kept under wraps without difficulty.

Medical experts predicted that Casey would probably undergo radiation therapy, possibly combined with chemotherapy.

The brain tumor was identified by doctors at Georgetown as a “B cell lymphoma of the large cell type.”

A Guarded Outlook

Lymphoma is a type of tumor that develops in the cells of the lymph system, the defense network that runs throughout the body. Outside the brain, such tumors are considered relatively easy to treat. Primary lymphomas of the brain--although responsive to initial radiation therapy--have a guarded long-term outlook because they tend to recur, according to medical specialists.

“The median survival, from radiation therapy alone, on the average is about 1 1/2 years,” said Dr. Mark Rosenblum, associate professor of neurosurgery at UC San Francisco and a member of its brain tumor research center.

Primary brain lymphomas are very rare, accounting for 1% to 1 1/2% of all primary brain tumors, which themselves total only 2% of all cancers, Rosenblum said. They are most often seen in individuals with depressed immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients and AIDS patients.

225 Cases Per Year

“This translates into approximately 225 cases of primary central nervous system lymphomas per year,” he said, compared to “thousands of cases” of lymphomas that occur elsewhere in the body.

Casey, 73, underwent nearly 5 1/2 hours of surgery last Thursday. He was hospitalized after suffering a seizure in his CIA office on Dec. 15. He suffered a second seizure at the hospital.

He had been scheduled to testify again last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Iran- contras scandal. In recent weeks, he had appeared four times before both House and Senate members investigating the affair.

Casey is married and has one grown daughter.