Skin Side Effects of TTFields Mesothelioma Treatment

Skin Side Effects

A new report has some advice for dealing with the possible skin side effects of the newest FDA-approved mesothelioma treatment, Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields).

TTFields, or Optune Lua, is an antimitotic treatment for asbestos cancer. It generates alternating electrical fields that disrupt the cancer cells’ ability to divide. TTFields is also approved for a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma.  

The new report says skin side effects like itching, sweating, and dry skin, can cause people to stop the treatment. Dealing with those problems effectively could improve survival for mesothelioma patients. 

How TTF Works

Pleural mesothelioma tumors grow on the membrane around the lungs. Alimta is the only FDA-approved medicine for mesothelioma. It received approval in 2004. 

The Optune Lua TTFields device is only the second FDA-approved mesothelioma treatment.  It is for unresectable or advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma.

The device sticks to the chest with adhesive patches or transducer arrays. Patients are supposed to wear it 18 hours a day while it generates waves of electricity that help keep cancer in check.

In a clinical trial of Optune Lua with chemotherapy, 71 percent of mesothelioma patients experienced skin side effects. In fact, these were the only major complications. Most of the problems were mild to moderate. But five percent of mesothelioma patients had severe skin side effects.

Skin problems are so common that Novocure, the company that makes Optune Lua, has a downloadable resource about skin side effects on its website. 

Managing Skin Side Effects of Optune Lua

The multi-center report focused on glioblastoma patients using TTFields. Researchers say managing adverse events (AEs) like skin problems is critical to improve survival. 

“Since survival benefit from TTFields increases with duration-of-use, prevention and management of skin AEs are critical to maximize adherence,” writes author Mario Lacouture of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Lacouture and his colleagues assessed the different kinds of skin side effects with TTFields. They include:

  • Irritation
  • Sweating
  • Dry skin
  • Itching
  • Ulcers/sores
  • Infection 

Sores and infections were the least common skin side effects with TTFields. But in patients whose immunity may already be compromised by mesothelioma treatment, they could be serious. 

The report recommends antibiotics, skin barrier films, moisturizers, topical corticosteroids and antiperspirants for treatment-related skin problems. Mesothelioma patients undergoing Optune Lua treatment should use water-based soaps and lotions. Petroleum-based products can interfere with the treatment. 

The report’s authors say they hope the information will help cancer doctors recognize and address skin side effects from TTFields. 

“These recommendations may improve cutaneous health and support adherence to therapy, both of which would maximize treatment outcomes,” concludes the report. 


Lacouture, M, et al, “Prevention and Management of Dermatologic Adverse Events Associated With Tumor Treating Fields in Patients With Glioblastoma”, July 28, 2020, Frontiers in Oncology,

Optune Lua website,

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