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New treatments for glioblastoma

The best treatment for glioblastoma currently is surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But new treatments are currently in development and available through clinical trials.

Using Immunotherapy to treat glioblastoma

Immunotherapy, which uses substances to enhance or subdue your immune system to help your body fight the tumour, is also showing some promise, such as the cancer vaccine DCVax®.

DCVax ® is a personalised cancer vaccine that is made from each patient's own dendritic cells. (Dendritic cells are a type of immune cell that help the body's immune system recognise and attack tumour cells.)

In May 2018, interim results from a clinical trial showed increased overall survival for patients with glioblastoma. However, as of June 2018, it's not currently available on the NHS, and the trial, though ongoing, is not recruiting any more people. It may be possible to access it privately and you may have to go abroad for the initial treatment. You will need to have a sample of your tumour flash frozen. Speak to your healthcare team if you are interested.

Using Tumour Treating Fields (TTF) to treat glioblastoma

Also known as Optune ®, TTF involves a set of adhesive patches or bandages that hold insulated ceramic discs, called 'transducer arrays', onto your shaved head, forming what looks like a skull cap. The arrays are attached by wires to a portable battery-powered device that is carried in a shoulder bag or backpack.

The battery-powered device, also known as Optune® and which can alternatively be attached to a static power supply, creates alternating electrical fields, called Tumour Treating Fields or TTF. These fields are low intensity and disrupt the cell division process in rapidly dividing cells, such as tumour cells. The TTF are applied at a frequency which specifically targets glioblastoma cells. Normal adult brain cells divide slowly, if at all, so are thought not to be affected by TTF.

To get the best response to treatment, the TTF device has to be worn continuously, and for at least 18 hours per day. This is because, unlike a drug, the effects of TTF on glioblastoma cells are only expected to occur when treatment is active. The total length of treatment will be determined by the doctor.

The arrays have to be changed, and the scalp re-shaved, one to two times per week, to make sure a good contact is maintained with the skull.

It's not currently available through the NHS.

Get your free brain tumour information pack

Our Brain Tumour Information Pack has been designed to help you cope with your diagnosis and support you during this difficult time. It can help to guide you through the healthcare system, answer your questions, and reassure you that you're not alone so that you feel confident when discussing treatment and care options with your medical team.