A new article suggests that non-invasive TTFields treatment for mesothelioma has the potential to save lives – as long as enough physicians accept it.
TTFields stands for Tumor Treating Fields. It is an electricity-based treatment approved by the FDA for use along with standard mesothelioma chemotherapy.
Cancer researchers from West Cancer Center and Research Institute wrote the new article for The Oncologist. They say the success of TTFields treatment for mesothelioma depends on doctors learning the logistics of using it.
How Does TTFields Treatment for Mesothelioma Work?
TTFields use low-intensity alternating electric fields. When these electric fields hit a mesothelioma tumor, they disrupt normal cell division. If cancer cells cannot divide properly, they are less likely to spread out of control.
TTFields were first used for a brain cancer called glioblastoma. But preclinical data showed mesothelioma cells were especially sensitive to the treatment.
Eighty patients with unresectable pleural mesothelioma were part of a study released in April. The STELLAR trial showed TTFields treatment for mesothelioma makes chemotherapy more effective. Patients who had both lived six months longer than those who only had chemotherapy.
Ninety-seven percent of mesothelioma patients in the study had some level of disease control.
Many Doctors Are Still Unfamiliar
TTFields for mesothelioma treatment is the first new therapy approved for asbestos cancer since 2004. But the authors of the new article say many doctors still do not know how to use it in practice.
“Because TTFields are a previously unrecognized antimitotic therapy with a unique mode of delivery, the oncological community must address obstacles to widespread patient and provider acceptance,” they write.
Pleural mesothelioma patients usually have a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Some patients may also have radiation. The authors say physicians are not used to the idea of treating cancer patients with an electrical device.
Many cancer patients are also unfamiliar with TTFields treatment for mesothelioma. This may make them reluctant to accept it.
Physician Understanding of TTFields Treatment for Mesothelioma
Any time a new treatment receives approval, it can take some time for doctors to embrace and start using it. But mesothelioma patients often do not have much time and the data on TTFields treatment for mesothelioma is strong.
“Physicians need to understand the practical issues surrounding its use,” write the authors. They predict that TTFields will join surgery, chemo and radiation as a main cancer treatment.
To offer TTFields treatment for mesothelioma, a doctor must be trained and certified by Novocure. Mesothelioma patients with implanted devices like pacemakers or defibrillators are not candidates for the treatment.
Wang, Y, et al, “Integration of Tumor‐Treating Fields into the Multidisciplinary Management of Patients with Solid Malignancies”, August 23, 2019, The Oncologist, Epub ahead of print, http://theoncologist.alphamedpress.org/content/early/2019/08/23/theoncologist.2017-0603