A Sci-Fi Electric Cap Can Help Fight Deadly Brain Tumors

Posted: Apr 3 2017, 2:35pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 3 2017, 10:05pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
A Sci-Fi Electric Cap can Help Fight Deadly Brain Tumor
Credit: University of Colorado

A cap-like device that generates electric field appears to extend the life of patients with deadly brain tumor.

While chemotherapy has proven to be an effective method to treat many types of cancers, the extreme nature of the therapy is known to cause a variety of side effects including nausea, fatigue, digestive issues and blood disorders. When combined with chemotherapy, patients have 13% increased chances of surviving for five years, compared to 5% of those who only undergo chemo. The novel device not only boosts the survival rate but also improves quality of life.

“You cannot argue with them—they're great results.” Dr. Antonio Chiocca, neurosurgery chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said.

The device, named Optune, is manufactured by a UK-based company called Novocure and is currently available in U.S., Germany, Switzerland and Japan for patients with aggressive form of cancer glioblastoma multiforme in order to prevent the recurrence of tumors after surgery.

The cap-like device is directly placed on the shaved scalp and works to kill tumor cells in a different way than chemotherapy or radiation. When the device is turned on, it creates low intensity electric field to treat tumors, so patients feel only mild heat. The device is portable and can be used at home without disturbing daily activities but it has to be used at least 18 hours a day for better results.

It sorts of catches tumor cells as they are dividing and disrupts the process, which makes the cell die or slow its progression. Because cancerous cells divide often and the normal ones do not, the device mostly affects disease and not the patient.

The first clinical trials of the device were conducted in 2011. In those trials, researchers did not notice any difference in survival of patients but they saw an improved quality of life with fewer side effects.

The latest trials which involved 695 adult patients yielded more promising results. Patients were enrolled in 2014 and followed up for at least 18 months. Those patients who randomly assigned to use the device along with standard chemotherapy lived several months longer on average compared with those who used only chemo without device. Survival rates were 43 percent versus 31 percent at two years; 26 percent versus 16 percent at three years, and 13 percent versus 5 percent at five years. Plus, patients who used device along with therapy experienced minimal side effects than those with chemo alone.

“The device is now impossible to ignore…it absolutely is an advance.” Dr. Andrew Lassman, brain tumor chief at the Columbia University Medical Center who also consults for Novocure said.

Optune is not a cure and researchers are also not sure how it works. But it seems effective and increase survival in people by several months.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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