DEC 17, 2015 5:11 AM PST

Electrical Stimulation Cap Could Help Brain Cancer Patients

Glioblastomas or GBMs are the most devastating kind of cancer tumor found in the central nervous system in adults. Tumors of this type come in two forms, primary and secondary. Primary onset tumors are usually very aggressive and grow extremely fast.  They are the most common form, accounting for about 90% of all GBM tumors. Secondary tumors grow a little slower over time but are still just as deadly.
 
A glioblastoma tumor

About 15% of primary brain tumors in adults are GBMs and the prognosis is not usually very good. Median survival for patients with this kind of tumor is about 14.6 months. Only 10% of patients will survive to the five year mark.  As with most brain cancers, there is no known cause for GBM. In the last decade, every clinical trial or experimental treatment has failed to show any significant benefit when tested in widespread randomized trials. There might be something new on the horizon for this devastating brain cancer however.
 
A study published this week in the December 15 issue of JAMA shows promising results from a new type of electromagnetic field therapy called Tumor Treating Fields or TTFields.  Patients who had been treated with a course of chemotherapy and radiation were split into two two groups. One had just the standard chemo and radiation, another group had the traditional therapy but also used a skull cap fitted with electrodes and the study results showed that those wearing the caps had prolonged periods where the disease did not progress along with longer overall survival times.
 
So how does this device work? TTFields therapy involves disrupting the division of cells with low-intensity, intermediate-frequency alternating electric fields. The electric current is delivered through a transducer, across wires to discs placed on the cap, which is worn on a shaved head.
 
Roger Stupp, M.D., of University Hospital Zurich and the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues who conducted the study randomly assigned 695 patients with glioblastoma who had completed chemoradiotherapy to one group or another. 466 patients received maintenance treatment with TTFields plus the chemotherapy drug temozolomide and 229 patients were treated with temozolomide alone.  The patients wearing the TTFields cap wore them for about 18 hours a day. The cap is powered by a portable power supply in a backpack like device and worn across the shoulders of the patients who then connect the cap to it..
 
Temozolomide was given for 5 days of each 28-day cycle. 83 medical centers in the United States, Europe, Canada, South Korea and Israel participated in the study.
 
The results were more than any of the study authors could have imagined. The median progression-free survival was 7.1 months in the TTFields plus temozolomide group compared with just 4 months in the temozolomide alone group. Median overall survival for the group wearing the cap was 20.5 months compared with 15.6 months in the temozolomide alone group.
 
An editorial in the JAMA that was written by John H. Sampson, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.Sc., M.B.A., of Duke University, Durham, N.C. urged caution however. He In his editorial he stated, “Given the survival benefit reported in this study, it should now be a priority to understand the scientific basis for the efficacy of TTFields; achieving this may require the development of robust and widely available large animal models for glioblastoma, which do not currently exist. Perhaps most concerning, because of the study design chosen, doubts may remain as to the true efficacy of this therapy."
 
The video below shows a patient who used the cap. Check out her story to hear more about this novel approach to treating deadly brain tumors.
 
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JAN 01, 2021
Cardiology
Blood Vessel Damage Caused by COVID-19 Disrupts Brain
JAN 01, 2021
Blood Vessel Damage Caused by COVID-19 Disrupts Brain
Scientists have been trying to determine if the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects brain cells directly, or if the virus severely ...
JAN 28, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Gene Variants Affecting an Ion Channel Alter Parkinson's Disease Risk
JAN 28, 2021
Gene Variants Affecting an Ion Channel Alter Parkinson's Disease Risk
These variants can raise, or lower the risk of the disease, and now researchers have learned how they work.
FEB 20, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Deep Brain Stimulation Offsets Epileptic Seizures
FEB 20, 2021
Deep Brain Stimulation Offsets Epileptic Seizures
Researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany have found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the brain’s ...
APR 15, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
In a Twist, Researchers Suggest Some Alzheimer Plaques are Protective
APR 15, 2021
In a Twist, Researchers Suggest Some Alzheimer Plaques are Protective
Scientists have long known that in Alzheimer's disease, plaques form in the brain. But new research suggests that not al ...
APR 27, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
CBD Doesn't Reduce Pain, but Makes it Less Unpleasant
APR 27, 2021
CBD Doesn't Reduce Pain, but Makes it Less Unpleasant
While anecdotal reports tout cannabidiol’s (CBD) utility for pain relief, up until now, there’s been limited ...
MAY 06, 2021
Neuroscience
Obesity Linked to Reduced Blood Brain Flow
MAY 06, 2021
Obesity Linked to Reduced Blood Brain Flow
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have found a link between obesity and reduced blood flow to the brain.  For t ...
Loading Comments...