Medicine

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

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

An electric skull cap created to zap cancer cells trying to grow in the brains of wearers proved useful at improving patient survival in a five-year clinical trial.

Many doctors are skeptical of the therapy, called tumour treating fields, and it is not a cure. The company added that combining Optune with temozolomide offered a significant extension of median overall survival to 21 months in the final stage study.

Only 5 percent of the patients who received only chemotherapy were alive after five years while the proportion was 13 percent in those who received both the electric field treatment and chemotherapy. The trial involved 695 patients newly-diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme.

They can wear a hat, go about their usual lives, and are supposed to use the device at least 18 hours a day. The device only gives a feel of mild heat and not that of electric current or radiation. However, when compared to the introduction of the cap into the mix, survival rates for the same periods reached 43 percent, 26 percent, 20 percent, and 13 percent respectively.

"You can not argue with them-they're great results", Antonio Chiocca, neurosurgery chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told the AP.

Uncovering non-drug therapies for glioblastoma patients is crucial as they survive, on average, less than 15 months after their diagnosis. 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. Brain tumor expert Dr. Roger Stupp, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, who led the study sponsored by Optune's maker Novocure, described the therapy as "out of the box" when it comes to treating cancer, and many doctors do not understand it nor think that this can help patients. Now, we see a meaningful improvement in survival at two years and beyond. 466 randomly chosen patients were treated with TTFields delivered by the Optune medical device in addition to chemotherapy drug temozolomide and the remaining 229 were given temozolomide alone.

Among the side effects include weakness, skin irritation, fatigue, and blood-count problems.

The trial news sent NVCR stock up roughly 50%, putting it at highs last seen in July 2016, before the company plunged about 30% in a single day thanks to a disappointing second quarter. Most U.S. insurers cover it but Medicare does not and 'we are paying, ' said Novocure's chief executive, Bill Doyle. Disposable parts need changing several times per week, and every patient has a support person.


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