Over the past decade, researchers have been on the path to providing cancer patients with new treatment options.
Novocure, an oncology company, has recently developed a new therapy know as Tumor Treating Fields (TTF). The first reported use of TTF therapy outside of clinical trials was in November.
This treatment has been approved for patients with glioblastoma mulitform (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved this treatment for other types of cancer. Yet because of the treatment’s efficacy in defeating cancer, this treatment should be considered for other types of cancer that have seen positive results in clinical trials.
The NovoTTF-100A system is a portable, non-invasive device that is worn by patients and weighs about six pounds. Pads are placed directly onto the patient’s skin, on an area surrounding the tumor. The pads deliver a low-intensity electric field within the tumor that disrupts the normal cell division process in the cancer cells, causing the cancer cells to die in a revolutionary and easy process for the patient.
To someone suffering from cancer, TTF therapy sounds like quite the achievement. The FDA has recently approved the NovoTTF-100A system, according to an April 2011 news release, but only to treat adults with GBM.
Therefore, if a cancer patient is not an adult and suffering from GBM, TTF therapy cannot be administered to them. Moreover, the FDA stated that TTF therapy should only be used after other treatments have failed. Yet the device has only been shown to cause a mild-to-moderate rash beneath the electrodes, according to gizmag.com. This is hardly comparable to the debilitating side effects of conventional treatment methods, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
One remarkable aspect of TTF therapy is its ability to accurately attack specific cell types, unlike chemotherapy, which attacks normal cells as well as cancer cells. The therapy’s frequency is actually tuned to affect one cell type at a time and as a result the device has not been shown to affect cells that are not undergoing division.
TTF therapy does not deliver any electric current to the tissue nor does it stimulate nerves or muscle or even heat tissue. For convenience, the device is designed for continuous use throughout the day and has been shown to improve the quality of life without the side effects of chemotherapy.
Novocure is currently in trials using TTF therapy to target lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and throughout the world. TTF therapy has also been tested on 20 types of cancer and has been successful in disrupting cancer cell division in all of them, according to mindthesciencegap.org.
TTF therapy has been very successful and should be approved to treat many more types of cancer. This is certainly a magnificent advancement in medicine and in the future this treatment could lead to many positive prognoses, but only if it is approved to treat these diseases and many others as well.
Luther Fleury is a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences.