CHICAGO, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Attaching to a patient's scalp a device that delivers a continuous dose of low-intensity electric fields helps improve survival and slows the growth of a deadly brain tumor, a clinical trial led by researchers at Northwestern Medicine found.
The new treatment for glioblastoma uses alternating electric currents called tumor-treating fields (TTFields), which are delivered through an array of insulated electrodes that are affixed to a patient's shaved scalp.
In the study, 695 patients were randomly assigned to either receive the TTFields in combination with temozolomide, a chemotherapy drug, or the chemotherapy drug alone. Overall, 466 patients received the TTFields-chemotherapy combination, and 229 received the chemotherapy treatment alone.
Except for occasional breaks and weekly electrode changes, patients wear the device at all times.
Patients who received TTFields did better than patients who did not: the median survival time for those receiving the TTFields therapy was 20.9 months versus 16.0 months for patients who did not, with a substantially higher fraction of patients alive at two, three or four years after diagnosis.
"With TTFields therapy combined with radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy, up to 43 percent of glioblastoma patients will survive longer than two years," said lead study author Roger Stupp, professor of neurological surgery and of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Medicine chief of neuro-oncology in the department of neurology.
Until 2004, the great majority of glioblastoma patients died within one year.
Moreover, there was no difference in the rate of adverse events between the two groups, except for mild to moderate skin irritation on the scalp, which was experienced by slightly more than half of patients receiving the TTFields therapy.
"This trial establishes a new treatment paradigm that substantially improves the outcome in patients with glioblastoma, and which may have applications in many other forms of cancer," said Stupp.