Edward Kennedy, the patriarch of America's most famous political dynasty, has a malignant brain tumour, his doctors revealed last night.
News that the last surviving Kennedy brother has been afflicted by what is potentially a fatal illness will shock Americans. Democrats and Republicans alike see him as a living link to a less divisive, more optimistic America.
The condition was discovered fter the 76-year-old senator for Massachusetts suffered a seizure last weekend. Tests revealed a tumour in the left parietal lobe of his brain. He is expected to undergo an aggressive combination of radiation and chemotherapy.
Mr Kennedy had a seizure at the family's compound in Cape Cod on Saturday and was airlifted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where his family have remained with him each day. His prognosis remains unclear but the average period of survival ranges from less than a year for the most aggressive types of brain cancer to about five years for slower-growing tumours.
The second most senior Democrat in the Senate, Mr Kennedy has been the leading liberal voice in US politics for decades. He is the youngest brother of the late President John F Kennedy, shot dead in 1963, and of Robert Kennedy, assassinated five years later. Mr Kennedy made an abortive run for the presidency in 1980, but forged his career in the US Senate where he has served since 1962.
In 2006, Time magazine named Mr Kennedy one of "America's 10 Best Senators", saying he had "a titanic record of legislation affecting the lives of virtually every man, woman and child in the country".
Public admiration for the rumpled and avuncular Boston politician has been unstinting. …