Fighting "The Enemy:" Brain Tumors

Dr. Keith Black, one of the foremost brain surgeons in the country, says malignant brain tumors are difficult for patients to comprehend, and even more difficult for doctors to treat, CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.

For Sen. Ted Kennedy: "I think the next treatment would include radiation therapy, which would take place over several weeks and then they would do chemotherapy," Black said.

But largely because of cutting edge research by Black and his team at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles - where he's chief of neurosurgery - some patients with malignant brain tumors now measure their survival in years instead of months.

"We're going to fight this," Black is heard telling a patient.

"Yes sir, we are," the patient said.

Black's created an arsenal to attack what he calls "the enemy." We first met him 10 years ago when he was starting to test a brain cancer-fighting vaccine he'd developed ... made of proteins from the patient's own tumor. It's now in its second round of testing around the country, including at Massachusetts General, where Kennedy was treated.

"In 60 percent of the patients that get the vaccine, we can activate their immune system to recognize their tumor and mount a fight against the tumor," Black said.

And that significantly boosts survival rates. A decade ago only 8 percent of patients survived two years. Today, with the vaccine, 42 percent of patients do. One has survived 10 years.

"I do think that would be one of the possible options that could be available for the senator," Black said.

Another Dr. Black discovery: That drugs for erectile dysfunction, like Viagra, actually help chemotherapy drugs penetrate the blood-brain barrier, the body's protective shield around the brain. It helped blast Eddie Michael's tumor two years ago.

"It allows me to live my life normally," Michael said.

In the future …

"We will begin to see much better survival and potentially cures for our patients with this devastating disease," Black said.

For now, the best he can give them is some more time and some more hope.