Tom Brokaw, the former NBC news anchor and an American household name for almost 50 years, revealed on Tuesday he’s been battling incurable bone cancer for six months. The 74-year-old was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow — last august at the Mayo Clinic. Brokow and his doctors continue to remain optimistic about the outcome of his treatment.
“With the exceptional support of my family, medical team and friends, I am very optimistic about the future and look forward to continuing my life, my work and adventures still to come. I remain the luckiest guy I know,” Brokaw said in a statement released by NBC on Tuesday. The NBC News Special Correspondent continued to express he is very grateful for the interest in his condition, but he does wish to keep this a private matter.
Brokaw’s plasma cells, white blood cells, are currently cancerous and have multiplied — raising the number of these cells to higher than normal levels. Normally, these cells make antibodies to help fight infections and other diseases, says the Mayo Clinic. The overgrowth of myeloma cells may interfere with cells that help keep the bones strong. Osteoblasts, cells that lay down a new bone, and osteoclasts, cells that break down old bone, are impacted by the cancerous cells. A substance in myeloma cells causes osteoclasts to speed up dissolving the bone and prevents osteoblasts from getting a signal to put down a new bone. This leads to the weakening and breaking of bones.
Details of Brokaw’s cancer treatment have not been publicly disclosed, but according to NBC, his prognosis is encouraging. Although the disease does not have a cure, standard treatment options can help patients return to near-normal activity and stabilize their condition. Treatment of multiple myeloma is contingent on what stage the cancer is in and the signs and symptoms that are present.
The American Cancer Society says bone marrow transplant (BMT), chemotherapy, and radiation are among the treatments bone cancer patients undergo — sometimes more than one. Chemotherapy and radiation shrink and kill tumor cells, and sometimes may require surgery to cut out the rest of the cancer. However, if patients undergo a BMT, their diseased bone marrow is replaced with a healthy marrow. Either a bone marrow is donated, or sometimes doctors may use the patient’s own marrow if obtained when the cancer is in remission.
Peter Jennings' lost battle to lung cancer is what assured Brokaw of his decision to retire, according to the CNN. In a 2012 interview, Brokaw said, "the line that you don't know anybody near death who says, 'Gee, I wish I had spent more time at the office.' That's kind of how I felt. I wanted to be free to do things that I care about and not worry about whether or not it was a rating period or I have to rush back to the studio to be on air."
Despite his retirement and cancer treatment, Brokaw has continued to work on projects at NBC. After he left his anchor chair in 2004, he has served as a “special correspondent” to NBC, covering various topics. He has made appearances on TODAY, Nightly News with Brian Williams, and Meet the Press, and has also contributed to sports coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.