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Light shed on future option for cancer patients


New studies regarding various cancers are underway to see whether a technology that’s used in a tumor-zapping “cap” can be applied in additional ways.

Novocure’s Optune, which is approved by Food and Drug Administration, targets newly diagnosed patients who have glioblastoma brain tumors. A randomized clinical trial showed a 5-year survival rate of 13 percent for glioblastoma patients who used the device in combination with the medication temozolomide. The 5-year survival rate for those who used only temozolomide was 5 percent. The median overall survival rate for patients who used Optune increased by 4.9 months.

Dr. Robert Isaak, who is a radiation oncologist at UnityPoint Health-John Stoddard Cancer Center, prescribes the Optune device to his patients. “I think there are other potential candidates for [Optune], like other types of tumors,” Isaak says.

Novocure’s Ashley Cordova says additional phase 3 clinical trials are underway to test the technology’s potential additional effectiveness against lung cancer and brain metastases. Phase 2 clinical trials recently were completed regarding Optune’s use on ovarian and pancreatic cancer, and a phase 2 clinical trial is underway regarding mesothelioma. Phase 3 clinical trials are expected to begin before the end of 2017 regarding the device’s use in pancreatic-cancer treatment and in 2018 for ovarian-cancer treatment. Instead of transducer-array components that are worn on the head, as is the case with brain tumors, the transducer-array patches will be placed on the body.

“It is a breakthrough,” Isaak says. “I don’t want to overpublicize it, but it’s certainly a small step in the right direction.”