A 'sci-fi' cancer therapy fights brain tumors, study finds

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A 'sci-fi' cancer therapy fights brain tumors, study finds

WASHINGTON (AP) — It sounds like science fiction, but doctors say a device worn on the head that makes electric fields improved survival for the first time in more than a decade for people with deadly brain tumors.

Although the treatment isn't a cure, Roger Stupp, of Northwestern University in the U.S., said median survival was increased from 16 months to 21 months.

Two-year survival increased from 30% to 43% and five-year survival from 5% to 13% when Optune was used alongside temozolomide compared to those given chemotherapy alone.

Developed by Jersey, US-based Novocure, Optune beams so-called Tumour Treating Fields (TTFs) through the scalp and into brain tumours where they disrupt cell division. Patients have to keep their heads shaved to wear the cap for 18 hours a day.

What the Optune does is that it sends low-intensity electric fields into the wearer's brain. "Before temozolomide was approved, newly diagnosed GBM patients only had a 1.9 percent five-year survival rate, so to see numbers that are over six times that rate shows the significant progress that has been made in treating this disease". Glioblastoma is a common type of brain cancer - about 12,500 people are diagnosed with it in the USA each year, according to Novocure - and is considered extremely aggressive.

'You can not argue with them - they're great results, ' and unlikely to be due to a placebo effect, said one independent expert, Dr. Antonio Chiocca, neurosurgery chief at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. 13% of the people who received both treatments survived. The company announced its final results from its Phase 3 pivotal EF-14 trial adding Optune to standard temozolomide chemotherapy for the treatment of newly diagnosed glioblastoma (GBM).

"[The cap is] an entirely different way to treat cancer", said study author Dr. Roger Stupp, a professor of neurological surgery at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

The therapy comes at price of $21,000 per month.

As promising as the device may be though, it has a downside - it costs roughly $700 per day, the Associated Press reports. "These data give us hope that TTFields used in combination with other cancer treatments may increase survival without significantly increasing side effects for a variety of solid tumors".

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