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Electric device slows growth of deadly brain tumors

"With TTFields therapy combined with radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy, up to 43 percent of glioblastoma patients will survive longer than two years," neurologist Dr. Roger Stupp said.

By Brooks Hays
Electric device slows growth of deadly brain tumors
Low-intensive electric fields can help slow the growth of deadly brain tumors, new research shows. Photo by Northwestern Medicine

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- In a recent clinical trial, researchers at Northwestern Medicine successfully slowed the growth of a deadly type of brain tumor using a new electric device.

The device is attached to a shaved portion of the patient's scalp and delivers a constant supply of low-intensity electric fields. The device's network of insulated electrodes direct so-called tumor-treating fields at the glioblastoma.

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Aside from a few short breaks to replace the device's electrodes, the patient wears the device 24-7. A small battery provides the electrode network with power.

Patients who received tumor-treating fields in conjunction with chemotherapy survived an average of nearly 21 months. Those who received only chemo survived an average of 16 months.

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"This trial establishes a new treatment paradigm that substantially improves the outcome in patients with glioblastoma, and which may have applications in many other forms of cancer," Dr. Roger Stupp, professor of neurological surgery and of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a news release.

The group of patients who received tumor-treating fields included a great number of patients still alive two, three and four years after diagnosis.

"With TTFields therapy combined with radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy, up to 43 percent of glioblastoma patients will survive longer than two years," Stupp said. "In a disease where, until 2004, the great majority of patients died within one year, this is yet another example how systematic and interdisciplinary research will benefit patients in everyday care."

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Researchers published the results of their clinical trial this week in JAMA. The findings showed both groups of patients experienced similar levels of treatment-related side effects. Mild to moderate skin irritation on the scalp was the most common complaint from patients treated with tumor-treating fields.

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