An advanced, completely non-invasive treatment modality is making waves in the field of oncology by extending the lives of patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer that has long resisted efforts to improve treatment outcomes. This innovative technology, called Optune®, was developed by Novocure and is now available locally at The Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers.
“Glioblastoma is an area of cancer treatment in which we hadn’t made much progress, but with Optune, we can now offer patients a promising new treatment as well as a new degree of hope,” says Nauman Shahid, MD, of The Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers.
Optune is a cap worn on the scalp consisting of four transducer arrays that deliver a constantly changing sequence of electrical frequencies, or tumor treating fields, to the site of the tumor. The electrical fields disrupt the ability of the glioblastoma cells to divide, and the existing cancer cells eventually die, preventing the tumor from growing larger.
The entire Optune system consists of an electric field generator, transducer array, connection cable and box, and an easy-access sleeve bag. All combined, the system weighs less than three pounds, making it easy to carry for everyday use.
Dr. Shahid explains that the traditional approach to treating glioblastoma involved surgically removing as much of the tumor as possible and then following up with radiation and chemotherapy. The problem is, glioblastoma tumors not only grow very rapidly, but they also tend to extend finger-like growths into healthy tissue, making effective surgical excision extremely challenging. As a result, the survival rate for this form of cancer has remained stubbornly low.
However, research has shown that the survival rate in glioblastoma patients treated with Optune in addition to standard care is significantly higher than that of patients receiving standard care alone. In fact, according to study data presented at an American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting in Washington, DC, the survival rate for Optune patients at two years and five years was 43% and 13% respectively, versus 31% and 5% for patients receiving only standard care. On average, the addition of Optune to patients’ treatment regimen was shown to increase survival by approximately five months.
Because Optune is completely non-invasive and does not involve introducing anything into the body or circulation (with the exception of low-intensity electrical fields), it has the additional benefit of producing few, if any, adverse side effects. According to Dr. Shahid, skin irritation at the treatment site is the most common side effect, and in rare cases, infection has been reported.
Dr. Shahid adds, “Optune is currently available only at certain centers that have undergone training from Novocure, including The Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers. If patients are determined to be eligible, we work with Novocure to get them approved and set up to begin treatment. And if patients who are approved require financial assistance, we have programs in place to help them with that too.”❦