Sen. John McCain passed away over the weekend after a brief and tumultuous fight with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Very few people being treated for glioblastoma live longer than two years. But a new, novel treatment for the disease is extending life for some people with this disease.
“There’s been a very exciting development of tumor treating fields, which are electrical fields that have been applied to the brain” says Dr. Suriya Jeyapalan, a neurologist at Tufts Medical Center. In practice, “they’re basically these adhesive pads that connect to a device … and it generates this alternating electrical current.”
Tumor-treating fields for brain cancer
Adds 2 years to survival rate for 1/2 of patients, when combined with standard treatment
of patients getting tumor-treating fields and standard treatment will live an additional 5 years
At it’s most basic level, cancer is the uncontrolled divisions and replication of cells. A company called NovoCure developed the tumor treating field technology, which works by disrupting the division of cancer cells and, in some patients, delaying the progression of the cancer. Optune, the brand name for the tumor treating fields delivery system, was launched in 2011 and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015. Tumor-treating fields, in combination with standard treatment, have added two years to the median survival rate for glioblastoma in about half of patients who use it and five years of additional life for about a third of patients. Because the technique is so new and novel, there is still no data on how effective tumor treating fields are in the long term. But Dr. Jeyapalan says the results of this new treatment should give people facing a brain cancer diagnosis hope. And, for a disease where only 9.8% of people are alive five years after diagnosis, hope is an enormous thing. As a note of disclosure, one of SurvivorNet’s founders previously served on NovoCure’s board of directors.
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