A 'sci-fi' cancer therapy fights brain tumors, study finds

A 'sci-fi' cancer therapy fights brain tumors, study finds

Results of a phase III trial using a wearable device that is powered by battery and delivers alternating electric fields via electrodes attached to the scalp improved chances of survival of patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma by nearly five months.

Of course, the study is still somewhat preliminary-and skeptical docs argue that the therapy is not, exactly, a "cure"-but the study showed cancer patients with brain tumors were more than twice as likely to live five additional years after receiving the cap treatment than patients who received only chemotherapy (13 percent vs 5 percent)".

The median survival rate for the group simply taking temozolomide was 16 months, whilst those that took the drug alongside the Optune skull gap had a median survival period of 21 months.

The two-year survival rate increased from 30% to 43% for patients treated with Optune together with temozolomide, while the five-year survival rate increased from 5% to 13%.

The device used in the clinical trial is a patient-operated system called Optune, made by oncology company NovoCure. It is sold in the U.S., Germany, Switzerland and Japan for adults with an aggressive form of cancer called glioblastoma multiforme, and is used with chemo after surgery and radiation to try to keep these tumours from recurring.

The diagnosed people have to use Optune for at least 18 hours daily. This ability of the cancer cells is stopped because the Optune therapy cap sends pulses of low-intensity electric fields and prevents cell division. "When I started treating patients with GBM 20 years ago, the majority of patients died within less than one year and long-term survival was almost absent", he said in a press release.

Cancer patient Joyce Endresen has been testing the new therapy. Dr. Antonio Chiocca, neurosurgery chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said. To be included in the study, participants had a Karnofsky performance score 70 or more, histologically proven WHO Grade 4 astrocytoma (glioblastoma, GBM), supratentorial tumor location, and nonprogressive disease.

In data from a pivotal phase 3 trial, EF-14, the addition of Optune to standard of care chemotherapy (temozolomide) significantly improved overall survival at two and five years in a sample of 695 glioblastoma (GBM) patients. Now, we see a meaningful improvement in survival at two years and beyond. Some reported feeling weak and scalp irritation, but these side effects were relatively minor.

A big issue is cost - roughly $700 a day. Disposable parts need changing several times per week, and every patient has a support person. "We've never refused a patient regardless of insurance status", Novocure Executive Chairman Bill Doyle told the AP.