The Cap To Zap Brain Cancer? The NovoTTF

NovoCure, an Israeli medical device company, has just released positive data from its Phase III clinical trail of its electric helmet, the NovoTTF-100A.  This 'helmet' looks exactly like what it is - a cap full of electrodes that is intended to zap spreading brain cancer cells before they multiply and eventually kill patients with recurrent glioblastomas (GBM), the most deadly of brain cancers.


NovoCure's NovoTTF: image via Bloomberg.comNovoCure's NovoTTF: image via


Today's results, reported to the Neuro-Oncology group at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, showed that NovoTTF was effective in the trials, as effective or possibly even more effective than the best chemotherapy available, prolonging life by 28 percent over the chemotherapy survival. 

Additionally, the NovoTTF treatment was associated with 3 to 4 times fewer infections, and fewer side effects than standard chemotherapy.  The most frequent side effect of the NovoTTF (< 20 percent of patients) was skin irritation on the head, which was resolved by using topical corticosteroids and repositioning of the cap.

The NovoTTF, which is powered by a 6-pound battery, is worn by the patient all day, except when taking a shower. The battery must be carried around with the patient, but otherwise he or she can engage in almost any activity - though I guess American football might be out of the question. The electrodes in the NovoTTF cap resonate at such frequency as to scramble the cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying, without doing harm to healthy cells. 

In case the movie One Flew Over The Cookoo's Nest comes to mind, Eilon Kirson, head of NovoCure's research and development, assures that the NovoTTF employs new technology. "Electricity has gotten a bad name in medicine in the last century or two," Kirson said in a telephone interview with AP reporter, Tom Randall. "People hear 'electric fields' and of course they are skeptical. In order to cross that barrier into biology and medicine, we had to start at the end. The end is glioblastoma."


source:  AP, Bloomberg News, via