Optune - using electric fields to treat brain tumours

Optune - using electric fields to treat brain tumours

Optune™ (TTF): A treatment for Brain Tumours; which also improves the performance of Temozolomide; 

The Optune Treatment (formerly called Novocure NovoTTF-100A System) is a successful treatment according to American Phase III Clinical Trials, for Glioblastoma and the company Webpage gives examples of people going about their daily business with the electrical arrays fitted.

It was approved for use with Glioblastoma in 2011 by the FDA. However, in America it is not approved by Medicare for insurance purposes. One reason may simply be the high monthly expense ($15,000 minimum).


One of our patient contacts recently received some information from his oncologist and we pass on our contact’s comments while also adding some more facts:

A TED link was also sent to our contact: http://www.novocure.com/our-therapy.aspx  

Research on Optune and Temozolomide

Dr. Roger Stupp who the STUPP PROTOCOL is named after --- what we all know as Standard of Care (SOC) for GBM. He is also one of the developers of Optune.
"The research study into Optune aimed to improve survival in glioblastoma, which is the most aggressive and malignant primary brain tumor in adults. The study involved 80 centers worldwide and randomized a total of 695 patients to receiving either standard of care – either temozolomide/radiation, followed by temzolomide, or temozolomide/radiation, followed by temozolomide plus TTFields.
The results demonstrated a 37% reduction in risk of death when adding TTFields to temozolomide/chemotherapy. To illustrate those results at 2 years, this means the overall survival is increasing from 30% to 43%, and there is a maintenance of this absolute benefit at 3, 4, and even 5 years," Stupp explains.

How does Optune work?

The process involves electrical fields, which exert a physical force that is sufficient to stop the processes of cancer cell division and even causes cancer cell death. As a result, cancer tumour growth is slowed and can even reverse after continuous exposure to the Optune (TTFields). TTF denotes Tumour Treatment Fields.

The Novocure website can be found here: (http://www.novocure.com/)

It states: Tumor treating fields or TTFields therapy is a locally or regionally delivered treatment that produces electric fields within the human body to disrupt the rapid cell division exhibited by cancer cells. TTFields therapy works by creating alternating, “wave-like” electric fields that travel across their region of usage in different directions. Because structures within dividing cells have an electric charge, they interact with these electric fields.

As the electric fields cross the region, they stop cancer cells from dividing and cause some of them to die. TTFields therapy is a regional treatment that affects dividing cancer cells and generally does not harm healthy cells.

Clearly, this treatment offers the potential to slow or even reverse brain tumour development with very few, if any, side effects. These seem confined to skin irritations from the electrodes. It is currently designed for long-term use (and research is currently taking place with other cancers).

The Optune Treatment

To quote Novocure: ‘TTFields therapy is delivered using non-invasive, insulated transducer arrays that are placed directly on the skin in the region surrounding the tumor. The complete delivery system includes a portable electric field generator, transducer arrays, rechargeable batteries and more. The therapy is designed to be worn continuously throughout the day and night. The delivery system is portable and is designed to allow patients to go about their daily activities while receiving treatment’.
Optune - a cancer treatment to rent

Unfortunately, at the moment, the equipment is only for hire by Novacare and the cost is roughly £15,000 per month, which is certainly well beyond most people’s financial means.

As of January 2015, the Optune treatment is not available in Britain. The treatment is well developed for use in America and clinics and hospitals use it in Europe (especially Germany).

Our contact writes, “Before Christmas 2014 a conversation with a clinic in Dusseldorf (run by Dr Frank Ulrich) ascertained that they no problems with treating UK patients. Although the treatment is not available in the UK, Professor Christer Lindquist of the Cromwell Hospital in London, (who is the Gamma Knife Centre surgeon) seems keen to carry out Optune (Nova TTF) treatment.

Prior to 14th November 2014 the treatment was called Novocure and CANCERactive did cover Novocure TTF previously in Cancer Watch. 

The company has development work with ovarian cancer, pancreatic and non-small cell lung cancer in the pipeline.

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