Science Fiction or Science?
Dr. Gullett offers the newest treatment for brain tumors at Erlanger Health System.
Tumor treating fields are a radical new way of treating a brain tumor called a “GBM” or glioblastoma mutiforme. You may have seen photos on the internet or heard about this new device called Optune on the news. Optune contains electrodes that are placed on a person’s scalp and deliver a low voltage electric current which kills brain tumor cells
I specialize in the treatment of brain tumors and am a certified Optune provider. Here is what you need to know:
• GBM is an aggressive tumor that often grows back, even after surgery to remove it plus six weeks of radiation with chemotherapy.
• Median survival for patients with a GBM used to be 14-16 months. That’s best case, assuming you tolerate the most aggressive surgery, radiation and chemo.
• A large study was done with 700 patients who completed surgery, chemo and radiation. These patients were then randomized to receive the Optune device or additional chemotherapy alone. The patients who wore Optune, and had the low voltage (200 kHz) current delivered to the brain for 18 hours a day, had a median survival of 21 months, compared to 16 months in patients who only received chemo.
• A 5 month survival benefit is a BIG DEAL in cancer. Especially in the treatment of GBM. To give you a reference point, adding chemotherapy to radiation increased survival by around two months. And that study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 2005. Nothing else we have tried since then has demonstrated a significant benefit – until Optune.
As part of the Neuro Oncology team here at Erlanger Health System, I am pleased to offer our brain tumor patients the latest medical science, including Optune. Click here to read more about our brain tumor program, including the region’s only academic Neurosurgeons and my Medical Oncology colleagues who are offering GBM patients the opportunity to enroll in clinical trials using immunotherapy.
P.S. Optune has shown such a benefit in the treatment of GBM that it is now being tested in other refractory cancer sites, such as pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers.