According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there may be a way of extending the life expectancy of people diagnosed with brain cancer (glioblastoma). According to the researchers, this can be done by way of low-intensity electric fields applied directly to the brain.
Researchers have been tinkering with a new device that can slow down the growth of deadly brain tumors with alternating electric currents called tumor-treating fields (TTFields). These electric surges can be delivered via an array of insulated electrodes that are attached to a patient’s scalp.
Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer and it develops from cells from cells called astrocytes, responsible for supporting nerve cells. Symptoms of glioblastoma include painful headaches, nausea, vomiting, and seizures. This type of cancer is very difficult to treat with the most common treatment being either surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy or radiation to the brain.
The latest study involved approximately 700 patients who had received all possible glioblastoma treatments including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Researchers revealed that those who had received the TTFields treatment were able to survive about four to five months longer than their previous diagnosis. More so, there were cases when patients would live two to four years longer after diagnosis. Receiving low-intensity currents to the brain had also improved their cognitive function and allowed them to function normally throughout the day.
The treatment is also surprisingly easier to use without sacrificing efficiency. Patients would have four electrodes placed on their shaved scalp and they would have to wear the gear at home for most of the day. The electrical fields created within the brain would kill dividing cells.
“In the brain, only the cancer cells divide, so the electrical fields only kill the cancer cells” said Dr. Roger Stupp, lead author of the study and professor of neurosurgery and medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The technology holds potential to eventually be able to treat other forms of cancer as it can easily be combined with chemotherapy and radiation, according to the doctor.
Image Source: WikipediaCommons
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