The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has approved a new treatment for patients as an alternative to chemotherapy. The promising new non-invasive treatment by Novocure uses "Tumor Treating Fields" (NovoTTF) to treat cancerous growths and is now available for adult patients with recurring brain tumors (recurrent glioblastoma or GBM). The treatment delivers electric fields to a patient utilizing a portable, wearable device that permits the patient to maintain normal daily activities without down time.
"Our device provides patients and physicians with a novel, non-invasive alternative to chemotherapy that is safe and effective," said Eilon Kirson, M.D., Ph.D., Novocure's Chief Medical Officer. "The device allows for continuous treatment without the usual, debilitating side effects that chemotherapies inflict on recurrent GBM patients and indirectly on their families."
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The portable device, which weighs about six pounds (three kg), is used continuously throughout the day by the patient. Tests indicate that the devices can slow and reverse tumor growth by inhibiting mitosis, the process by which cancerous cells divide and replicate. The NovoTTF treatment involves placing pads onto the patient's skin that creates a low intensity and alternating electric field within the tumor. The electric field prevents the normal mitotic process and causes cancer cell death prior to division without harming healthy cells. Whilst chemotherapy treatments can often be debilitating, the most commonly reported side effect from the NovoTTF treatment is a mild-to-moderate rash beneath the electrodes.
Glioblastoma is considered an aggressive and common form of primary brain cancer. In the United States the disease affects approximately 10,000 people each year. The results from a 237-patient trial indicated that NovoTTF treated patients achieved comparable median overall survival times to patients treated with chemotherapy but had fewer side effects, and reported an improved quality of life.
"In the lab we've observed tremendous synergies between chemotherapy and tumor treating fields," said Bill Doyle, Executive Chairman of Novocure, in a recent TED talk. "We have more trails planned for lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. And I firmly believe that in the next ten years Tumor Treating Fields will be a weapon available to doctors and patients for all of these most difficult to treat solid tumors."
You can watch Bill Doyle discuss the benefits of NovoTFF treatment in a TED talk on the video below.
Novocure also has European marketing approvals for the NovoTTF-100A.