Health Care and Technology

Spectrum Health announces new electrical field therapy

Process is being used to treat a type of recurring brain tumor.

April 25, 2014
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An innovative treatment for an aggressive recurring type of brain tumor is now available in West Michigan.

Spectrum Health Medical Group announced recently it will offer an innovative electrical field treatment for patients with recurring gliobastoma multiforme, a malignant and aggressive type of brain tumor, at The Brain and Tumor Center, 25 Michigan St. NE.

Dr. Seth Wolk, president at Spectrum Health Medical Group, said in a statement the health care organization continues to provide advanced treatment options that are otherwise unavailable.

“This innovative therapy provides yet another avenue for meeting patient needs, and the fully integrated approach of The Brain and Tumor Center allows patients to remain closer to home, family and community support systems,” said Wolk.

Dr. Wendy Sherman, medical director of neuro-oncology and co-director of The Brain and Spine Tumor Center, said although the gliobastoma multiforme, or GBM, tumor is rare, it is the most common for brain cancer, and the average survival rate is less than two years.

The new treatment is known as tumor treating fields therapy, or TTF, and uses electrical currents to disrupt the rapid cell division of GBM. The Brain and Tumor Center will add TTF as a fourth option in treating the brain cancer, along with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the treatment in 2011 using the NovoTTF-100A System in patients who had suffered from a recurring GBM tumor. The device was developed by Novocure, an international oncology company.

In the FDA study, the overall survival with NovoTTF-100A System was comparable to that seen with active, best standard of care chemotherapy, according to the FDA website. Sherman said the therapy isn’t “necessarily better” but “wasn’t inferior” to other treatment options. Patients using the device experienced less gastrointestinal, hematological and infectious side effects commonly associated with chemotherapy. “It’s a good candidate for those patients who can’t tolerate chemotherapy,” said Sherman.

According to the press release, the therapy “works by creating alternating wave-like electric fields that travel across the upper region of the brain in different directions.” The electric current interacts with the polarity in the cancer cells to halt the division or to kill the malignant cells.

At this point, the therapy is only approved for treating the recurrence of the GBM tumor. Sherman said a long-term goal is to look at adapting the treatment for other types of brain tumors and for initial treatment of the GBM cancer.

“Ultimately, we want better treatment for brain cancer,” said Sherman. “I’m not saying that this is going to be that, but it is a step along the way to start looking at treatments from a different perspective. It is a different way we can attack these tumor cells.”

The treatment is covered by insurance in most cases due to its FDA approval, according to Sherman. In the cases that the treatment is not covered, the company offers financial assistance. Patient costs tend to be comparable to traditional treatments.

Spectrum Health is the first to offer the therapy in West Michigan. There are more than 100 certified treatment centers throughout the United States.

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