Electric shocks to the brain can double the survival rate of cancer patients
Wearable Cancer Treatment
Over the last several decades, increased funding for cancer research and arrival of new technologies have enabled researchers from all around the world to start devising new techniques for early detection, prevention, treatment and management of cancers. One of the recent more unique test studies happened under the leadership of Novocure Ltd, an oncology company that has devised a pioneering therapy for solid tumors called Tumor Treating Fields, or TTFields.
After five years of clinical trials, technology and techniques provided by Novocure Ltd have enabled researchers to gather evidence that electric skull cap devices to zap electricity into patient’s brain can actually reduce and in some cases prevent the rate of the growth of cancer cells inside the brain. The cap itself bears the name “Optune”, and is equipped with its own power supply that sends an alternating range of electrical frequencies to the power points on the skullcap itself. The frequencies (called by the name of Tumor Treating Fields, or TTFields) are used to disrupt the division of mutated cancer cells, and more importantly, electricity also prevents the lining up of chromosomes (which carry the genetic mutation of the cancerous cells) before the start of the cell division. This means that even if the cell manages to start the process of division, the lack of chromosomes the right spot will cause the cells to die.
It is important to note that this type of treatment is available only to the patients with glioblastomas – cancers that appear only in the brain or the base of the spine. The treatment works because those areas of the body are mostly filled with the cells that are not dividing, meaning that mix of electricity and drug medications will target only cells that are rapidly dividing – the cancer cells.
To be effective, patients not only have to wear the Optune cap for at least 18 hours every day, but they also have to continue with the traditional cancer treatment methods such as chemotherapy via the use of the drug called Temozolomide. Thankfully, the skullcaps themselves are not producing any sensation of pain, but only a slight feeling of warming. They enable patients to live normal daily lives, with no interruptions in their daily activities (as long as patients can ensure that the cap and its power supply are allowed to work as intended).
The results from the five-year phase III clinical trial that was held between 2009 to 2014 involved 695 patients has showcased very promising results. The survival rate of the patients with glioblastoma cancer (more precisely, glioblastoma multiforme, an advanced and aggressive form of this cancer) has improved from 5 percent to 13 percent, which is more than double of survival rate for cancer patients who do not have access to this kind of treatment. While these results showed great promise, it also comes with a great cost to the patients (thankfully covered in part by FDA) which hovered around the price of $700 per day.
Researchers from Novocure will continue to devise new ways to use this electricity-based approach in curing other forms of cancer.
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