A new cancer treatment using electricity has been approved for use in mesothelioma patients. The NovoTTF-100L uses Tumor Treating Fields, which are electric signals tuned to a specific frequency, to disrupt cancerous cell division. The fields are applied to the patient with adhesive bandages and are used for at least 18 hours a day. This is the first new treatment for mesothelioma approved by the FDA in 15 years, and is showing promising results because the mesothelioma tumors are very sensitive to the Tumor Treating Fields and are responding nicely to them. In a study of 80 pleural mesothelioma sufferers who were treated with chemotherapy and Tumor Treating Fields, there was a median overall survival of 18.2 months. The NovoTTF-100L was able to be approved as a Humanitarian Use Device under the Humanitarian Device Exemption, which helps companies create treatments for rare diseases that not many people suffer from.
The device will usually be prescribed when a patient has pleural mesothelioma that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation. When using the treatment, patients are also being treated with chemotherapy. Together, they can extend the lives of patients with mesothelioma. Some patients had to deal with complications including skin irritation, rash, and small sores and blisters where the adhesive pads attached to the body. The patients were treated with steroid creams and the adhesive pads were moved to a different equally effective part of the body. Once the treatment was done, the skin problems went away. This treatment is dangerous for and should not be used on patients with electric medical devices including pacemakers and automatic defribulators. It should also not be used on people with a sensitivity to conductive hydrogels.
The NovoTTF-100L is a great option for people who are not able to receive surgery. The device is not invasive and does not require patients to deal with incisions or devices implanted into the body. The first mesothelioma patient to be treated with the device is in Memphis, Tennessee. His doctors are expecting good results, with 97 percent of the disease being controlled by the end of year one. This keeps the disease stable for a period of time, allowing the patient to live longer.
There are a few problems associated with the device, including patients taking the device off early. Since it is used at home without supervision, patients can take it off or shut it off early and not get the benefits of the treatment for the right length of time. Being hooked up to a device for 18 hours a day is a long time, so patients could become frustrated with it. Patients also have to shave the area where the pads go, which are changed every two or three days. It can also be cumbersome to carry around a machine all day to be treated. It could get in the way of doing daily activities, but at the end of the day it can help people, so it being cumbersome and getting in the way should not stop patients from using it.