New procedure busts deadly brain tumour cells

Washington: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) happens to be the nastiest and most common brain tumour, affecting 10,000 patients in the US alone every year. Now, a novel non-invasive procedure called Tumour Treating Fields (TTF) that inhibits tumour growth is offering hope to thousands, says a study.

On the average, a patient with GBM survives less than 15 months with optimal treatment and only three to five months without additional effective treatment.

The TTF procedure, which disrupts rapid cell division exhibited by cancer cells with the help of alternating electrical fields, may provide physicians with a fourth treatment option in addition to surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

"Patients with recurrent GBM present a significant treatment challenge," said Santosh Kesari, director of Neuro-Oncology at University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Centre.

"The initial clinical research for the approval trial demonstrated that, compared to patients who were treated with chemotherapy, patients treated with NovoTTF achieved comparable survival times, had fewer side-effects, and reported improved quality of life," said Kesari, according to a university statement.

TTFs inhibit tumour growth by causing cancerous cells to die. It is delivered using non-invasive, insulated transducer arrays (electrodes) that are placed directly on the skin in the region of the tumour.

The hat-like collection of electrodes connects to a portable device which is slightly thicker than a laptop and weighs about six pounds. The device sends a low intensity, alternating electric field into the tumour which prevents the cells from dividing and spreading and causes cancer cells to die.

The most commonly reported side-effect from NovoTTF is a mild-to-moderate scalp rash, beneath the electrodes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved device is intended as an alternative to standard medical therapy for GBM after surgical and radiation options have been exhausted.