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FDA Clears first of a Kind Device for Brain Cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just given approval for a new device which will be intended to be used to fight brain cancer. The company’s creator, NovoCure, has developed NovoTTF, and this device is being referred to as a “first-of-a-kind treatment”. This treatment, unlike other approved methods, is considered less invasive.

According to the company website, TTF stands for “tumor treating fields”.

According to Business Week, the FDA has granted approval to use the NovoTTF for patients with aggressive brain cancer that returned post-chemotherapy. NovoTTF is a portable device, and is designed to utilize electrical energy fields as a means to fight malignant brain tumors.

Traditionally doctors fight cancer with drugs, radiation or surgery, but unfortunately these methods are not always comfortable and/or have side effects.

Prior to approval the NovoTFF was tested on 237 patients. Matthew Perrone, Associated Press Health Writer, (via Yahoo News) reported “Studies showed that people using the device lived about as long as those taking chemotherapy, roughly six months. However, patients using the device had significantly fewer side effects.”

Chemotherapy patients often experience uncomfortable side effects such as nausea, diarrhea and infection. Additionally if blood counts are not aligned in an acceptable range, patients may have to skip sessions of chemo which can be problematic as well as it interrupts routine treatments. Seemingly individuals being treated with this device may not have to experience many of these types of issues that accompany cancer.

How NovoTTF works is four electrodes are attached to an individual’s head and signals are sent through these attachments. The signals’ purpose is to disrupt the division of cancer cells, which is supposed to prevent additional growth on infected cells. Cancer cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells. The machine weighs about six pounds and patients can carry the device along with them in a bag.

Currently FDA approval, according to Perrone’s report, has only been given to glioblastoma tumors. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive form of brain cancer and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center states this type of tumor is a grade 4, and “only about one out of every four patients with this type of tumor survives two years.” There are some varying factors such as age, whether or not surgery can remove the tumor in its entirety and if the tumor turns out to be one stage less severe.

NovoCure Ltd., is a privately based company.