New device disrupts cancer cell growth with electric fields

5 June 2007

A device that can specifically target rapidly growing cancer cells with intermediate frequency electrical fields more than doubled the median overall survival rates in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive type of malignant brain tumour.

The device, called the Novo-TTF, uses intermediate frequency electrical fields — called tumour-treating fields (TTFields) — to disrupt tumour growth by interfering with cell division of cancerous cells, causing them to stop proliferating and die off instead of dividing and growing.

Healthy brain cells rarely divide and have different electrical properties than cancerous brain cells. This allows the device to target cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells.

This early research, which includes the results of cell culture, animal and early phase human trials, appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“The novel mechanism of action of the Novo-TTF relies on the physical properties of the cancer cells, their shape and size, rather than the chemical make-up. We believe that this distinction enables the device to stop local proliferation and metastasis of cancer, which would explain the efficacy observed in these early findings,” said Dr. Elion Kirson lead author and Vice President of Research and Development, NovoCure.

"Based on our preliminary research, we believe that there is a high probability that TTFields may prove to be an effective and safe approach to treating a large number of human cancers."

Based on these positive early findings, patient enrollment has begun for a large-scale phase III clinical trial to further clarify the efficacy and safety of the Novo-TTF in the treatment of recurrent GBM.

The research is being conducted at 12 leading cancer centres across the United States, and eight centres across Europe — in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland.

More information on the trial can be found at www.novocuretrial.com

Study details

The single-arm, pilot trial of the safety and efficacy of Novo-TTF treatment was performed on 10 patients for a total of 280 weeks. Efficacy analysis was performed for 10 recurrent GBM patients by comparing time to tumour progression (TTP), progression-free survival (PFS) at 6 months and overall survival (OS) in recurrent GBM patients to these endpoints in historical data.

At the time of publication, researchers found that among the 10 patients with recurring GBM treated with the Novo-TTF, the median length of time to disease progression was 26.1 weeks; progression free survival at six months was 50%; and median overall survival was 62.2 weeks. This is more than double the rates reported in historical data — approximately 9.5 weeks, 15.3%, and 29.3 weeks, respectively.

All current cancer treatments have major limitations due to unfavourable side effects. The ten patients involved in this study received treatment for a total of 280 weeks without a single treatment-related adverse event.

The only device-related side effect seen was a mild to moderate contact dermatitis beneath the field delivering electrodes, which responded well to the application of topical cream and periodic electrode relocation.

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