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UNITED STATES

Edward Kennedy has brain tumour

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Doctors treating US Senator Edward Kennedy said on Tuesday that he has a malignant brain tumour. The iconic Democrat was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital on Saturday after suffering a seizure. (Report: J. Creedon)

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Legendary political patriarch Senator Edward Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor, doctors said Tuesday, days after he was airlifted to a Boston hospital following a seizure.

The liberal lion's cancer diagnosis sent shockwaves through the US political scene, which the 76-year-old has bestrode for nearly a half century, and cast a pall over the day's business over the US Congress.

"Preliminary results from a biopsy of the brain identified the cause of the seizure as a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe," physicians Lee Schwamm and Larry Ronan said in a statement.

Normal treatment for such a condition is radiation and chemotherapy, the doctors said, adding that Kennedy, sole surviving brother of assassinated president John F. Kennedy, was in "good spirits and full of energy."

Schwamm, vice chairman of Massachusetts General Hospital's neurology department and Ronan, a primary care physician, said further analysis and tests were needed to determine the best course of treatment for Kennedy.

The statement did not offer a prognosis, but said the senior Massachusetts senator will remain in hospital for the next few days.

But the US National Cancer Institute says the outlook for patients with such a diagnosis is poor, with average life expectancy depending on the stage of the tumor, from a few months to up to five years.

The White House, and shocked US lawmakers quickly paid tribute to Kennedy.

"Ted Kennedy is a man of tremendous courage, remarkable strength, and powerful spirit," President George W. Bush said in a statement.

"Our thoughts are with Senator Kennedy and his family during this difficult period.  We join our fellow Americans in praying for his full recovery."

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain quickly offered his own prayers.

"We hope and pray his doctors will be able to effectively treat his condition and that he will experience a full recovery," McCain said in a statement.

"I have described Ted Kennedy as the last lion in the Senate, and I have held that view because he remains the single most effective member of the Senate."

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, spoke to reporters outside the doors of the Senate, where Kennedy has served for more than 45 years.

"He is a strong guy, with a great heart," said Dodd said, before breaking off, apparently overcome by emotion.

Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said was a "fighter."

"Millions of Americans have benefited from the work of Ted Kennedy, and I know he's not done yet."

Kennedy was once seen as the heir apparent of his political dynasty, and apparently destined for the White House.

But his career was rocked by the death of a young woman, Mary Joe Kopechne, in his car late one night in 1969 after he drove it off a bridge near Chappaquiddick island off the US east coast.

He did run for president in 1980 against Jimmy Carter, but his campaign was still haunted by the Chappaquiddick incident, and failed though he did damage the sitting US president, who lost the general election to Ronald Reagan.

Kennedy's latest health scare came six months after he had surgery to clear a blockage in a major neck artery, a common procedure to prevent a stroke.

Since then, he has been back in the Senate, and only last week was in ebullient form, piloting a bill through the chamber where he has served for more than more than 45 years, and is the second longest serving incumbent.

He ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980, but lost the race to incumbent president Jimmy Carter.

Kennedy is the patriarch of a family political dynasty blessed with greatness but frequently rocked by tragedy.

John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963, and another brother Robert Kennedy was shot dead while campaigning for the presidency in 1968.

His eldest brother Joseph died in a plane crash during World War II.

Edward, or Teddy Kennedy, as he is often known, is an unapologetic liberal and an orator who recalls a bygone era of roaring political rhetoric.

He is a champion of causes such as health care, education, workers rights and immigration reform, and has been a fierce critic of President George W. Bush.

Recently, he symbolically passed the Democratic party torch to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. cooling his ties with Hillary Clinton, who had hoped to enlist his support.

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