This Sci-Fi Anti-Cancer Cap Is Producing Impressive Results
The “electric cap” is a device that zaps tumors with electrical currents with the hopes of boosting survival in patients with the deadly form of cancer.
These Tumour Treating Fields (TTFields) do not disrupt healthy resting cells in the brain and are focused entirely upon the affected area, without entering the bloodstream and damaging other areas of the body as chemotherapy does. Novocure found that the two-year survival rate for patients improved from 30% to 43% after its drug Optune was added to standard temozolomide chemotherapy, and the five-year survival rate increased from 5% to 13%.
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.
According to the researchers and developers of the new device, the “electrical cap”, formally called Optune, is worn on the head and exposes the cancer cells to a rapidly alternating sequence of low-intensity electrical frequencies, thereby interrupting the cancer cells ability to function.
Patients cover their shaved scalp with strips of electrodes connected by wires to a small generator kept in a bag. According to the researchers, this is based on the theory that this electric fields can block cell division, which in turn is seens as an “anticancer” effect, indicating that the cancer won’t be able to spread as fast, which also helps extend the life of the patient.
“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”, Stupp said.
The analysis was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. Study results indicated that Optune significantly improved overall survival rates at two, three, four and five years.
“These data further support our belief that Optune plus temozolomide is an essential combination treatment for patients with newly diagnosed GBM”, said Asaf Danziger, CEO of Novocure. Dr. Antonio Chiocca, neurosurgery chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said.
The FDA expanded approval but some doctors were leery because the device wasn’t compared with a sham treatment – everyone knew who was getting what. “Now, we see a meaningful improvement in survival at two years and beyond”, said Roger Stupp, principal investigator for the study. In EF-14, adherence was more than 75 percent over the course of a median number of 8.2 TTFields/temozolomide one-month cycles of therapy.
Among the side effects include weakness, skin irritation, fatigue, and blood-count problems.
A big issue is cost – roughly $700 a day.