The hospital is one of the first centers in the U.S. to receive training and certification required to administer a new therapy called Tumor Treating Fields to patients with recurrent GBM. This new, non-invasive therapy involves the use of a portable device (the NovoTTF-100A System by Novocure), which employs alternating electrical fields to block the rapid cell division exhibited by cancer cells.
The first patient to receive a prescription for this device outside a clinical trial is David Messmer, 50, of Indiana. His treatment began Nov. 28 at the University of Illinois Hospital. Messmer was diagnosed with GBM in November of last year. His tumor progression worsened despite two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. With the support of his family, he claimed to be “willing to try anything.”
Over 10,000 Americans each year develop GBM. The median survival period from initial diagnosis is currently 15 months with optimal treatment, and median survival following the time of recurrence is only three to five months without additional effective treatment.
Chief of neuro-oncology at the University of Illinois Hospital, Dr. Herbert Engelhard, claims, “Patients with recurrent GBM present a significant treatment challenge.” The University of Illinois hospital was one of the primary clinical research sites for the approved trial. Engelhard says that the clinical trial showed that patients treated with this new tool had comparable median overall survival times, few side effects, and improved quality-of-life scores compared to patients treated only with chemotherapy.
TTF therapy allows physicians to use a fourth treatment option for cancer in addition to surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. It has been found to effectively block tumor growth by triggering cell death. The device (NovoTTF) is a portable, non-invasive medical instrument designed to be used continuously throughout the day by the patient. The device is placed directly on the skin near the site of the tumor. An artificial, alternating electrical field is created within the tumor, disrupting cancer cell division and causing a complete destruction of the dividing cancer cells. The most commonly reported side effect was a mild-to-moderate rash underneath the electrode site.
The FDA has approved the NovoTTF-100A System to be used as a treatment for adult patients suffering from recurrent GBM. The device is intended to be used alone as an alternative to standard medical therapy for GBM once surgical and radiation options have been exhausted.