Wearing an electronic cap to improve glioblastoma survival

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Patients with glioblastoma are wearing a cap that delivers electronic fields to treat their brain tumours

A recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reports on a clinical trial testing a relatively new and non-invasive method to treat adults with glioblastoma. Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of brain tumour that affects approximately 74,000 individuals across the globe, annually.

The current standard of treatment for this tumour type includes the surgical removal of the tumour, accompanied with radiation therapy and a chemotherapy drug called temozolomide. Despite patients undergoing rigorous treatment regimens, survival rates remain low, with only 5% of adults living for 5 or more years after their initial diagnosis.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine led a clinical trial that evaluated the safety and efficacy of an electronic cap worn by people suffering from glioblastoma.

The electronic cap delivers alternating low frequency electronic fields to the patient's brain via 9 insulated electrodes. These electric currents, also known as Tumour Treating Fields (TTF), appear to disrupt the growth and division of tumour cells or cause cell death, thereby delaying tumour growth.

The trial consisted of 695 individuals with glioblastoma who had undergone surgery to remove their tumour and radiation therapy. Two-thirds of the participants were treated with TTF plus temozolomide, with the remaining one-third given only temozolomide.

Overall survival in patients who received TTF plus temozolomide was 20.9 months. Relatively, patients who received only temozolomide has an overall survival rate of 16.0 months.

“This trial establishes a new treatment paradigm that substantially improves the outcome in patients with glioblastoma," said Dr Roger Stupp, principal author of this study.

While this trial shows promising results for adults with glioblastoma, the cost per month is a major barrier. Priced at £18,000/month, this treatment is not considered a cost-effective option and is being discussed by experts in this field.