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Virginia boy to have biopsy on 'Frank'
A new procedure will determine if his brain tumor is malignant
By Robert Jablon, Associated Press

A 9-year-old boy who nicknamed his brain tumor "Frank" after Frankenstein's monster, and whose mother launched an online auction to help pay medical bills, will have an operation today to see if the tumor remains malignant.

"I'm scared a little," David Dingman-Grover of Sterling, Va., admitted during a Tuesday news conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where he and his mother were staying for free this week.

David, wearing glasses, jeans and an orange "Lido & Stitch" T-shirt, frequently leaned against his mother's shoulder during the news conference.

The boy was diagnosed in May 2003 with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. A grape-fruit-sized tumor was impinging on his optic nerves and carotid arteries, causing blindness and headaches.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments shrank it to the size of a peach pit, restoring his vision, but there were serious side effects. For a while he couldn't walk or eat and had to be fed through a tube, his mother said.

David's health has improved. He stopped using leg braces three months ago and "he could probably eat anybody in tbis room under the table," said his mother, Tiffhi Dingman-Grover.

Today, he is scheduled to have a biopsy using a relatively new procedure. A fiber-optic tube the size of a child's drinking straw will be inserted in his nose and threaded to the tumor so cells can be removed and tested to determine if it is dead or still growing, said Dr. Hrayr Shahinian of the Skull Base Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

"If the tumor is dead, that is the best news that we can have. That's what we're praying for," said Shahinian, who has performed about 2,000 of the procedures.

The usual biopsy procedure for such tumors would have meant peeling back the boy's scalp, cutting through the bone of his skull and lifting his brain to reach the tumor, Shahinian said.

David's mother refused to accept the usual procedure because it would "mutilate my child's face."

After a lot of research, Dingman-Grover said she found and contacted Shahinian, who agreed to do the surgery for free. The physician said the procedure is "minimally invasive" and doesn't require any incisions.

The biopsy surgery should take 1 1/2 to three hours and the boy will be kept overnight and discharged from the hospital Thursday, Shahinian said. It will take up to a week to determine if the tumor still is active.