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Biotech Science

Electrical Field Treats Brain Cancer 136

Posted by kdawson
from the reverse-EEG dept.
amigoro writes "A device that specifically targets rapidly growing cancer cells with intermediate frequency electrical fields doubled the survival rates of patients with brain cancer, according to an article apperaring in PNAS. The device uses electrical fields to disrupt tumor growth by interfering with cell division of cancerous cells, causing them to stop proliferating and die off instead of dividing and growing. Healthy brain cells rarely divide and have different electrical properties than cancerous brain cells. This allows the device to target cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells. Essentially no device-related side effects were seenin the clinical trial."
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Electrical Field Treats Brain Cancer

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  • Confused (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I am confused! I thought electrical fields cause brain cancer!
  • 1931 called (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:13PM (#19316713)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by macs4all (973270)
      And what's so impossible about Rife? Yeah, he got some stuff wrong; but medical researchers have known for years about the healing power of certain electrical currents, and have demonstrated same in many experiments.

      It seems logical, then, that certain types of cells might find their growth enhanced, or retarded, by electrical stimuli that a different cell type might not be significantly affected by, either one way or another.

      Once we have that type of a differentiation, and can do it repeatedly, that fo

    • by twitter (104583)

      If Rife's stuff worked, it's a pity there was no follow up. When there's an observable effect, it's the effect that's important not the explanation. It does not matter if the observer's reasoning is wrong, if the effect is consistent and repeatable it can be used. Following the links, we see that portions of his claims have been observed with better tools now available.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        That's why it's bad to make up pseudoscience or mystical explanations. If you push some silly agenda in your explanation you hurt your credibility and people are also unlikely to trust your observations.
        • In the absence of knowledge, you have to try things. One of the advantages of pursuing this through academic channels is that things are followed up, or have a better chance of it.
          • by ceoyoyo (59147)
            Of course. There are a lot of things to try though, and if someone gives one a bad reputation with a lot of mystical babbling (or premature press releases) then it can take a generation or two before someone gets around to trying it again.
            • Good point. Mystical babbling is generally limited in sphere to the true believers, with whom one can either willingly participate or easily ignore; it's a good measure of someone's rationality to simply ask them about astrology (~Heinlein quote) for example.

              Far more pernicious to the advancement of human knowledge is the premature press release. If you don't have your ducks well and truly in a row, and qualify your statements, any small step forward will be smacked down. If the idea is good, it's better

    • The current machine works at 100-300 kHz, while Rife's "worked" at 10-100 MHz.
  • from the article (Score:5, Informative)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:14PM (#19316717) Journal

    At the time of publication, researchers found that among the 10 patients with recurring GBM treated with the Novo-TTF, the median length of time to disease progression was 26.1 weeks; progression free survival at six months was 50 percent; and median overall survival was 62.2 weeks. This is more than double the rates reported in historical data - approximately 9.5 weeks, 15.3%, and 29.3 weeks, respectively.
    The ten patients involved in this study received treatment for a total of 280 weeks without a single treatment related adverse event. The only device related side effect seen was a mild to moderate contact dermatitis beneath the field delivering electrodes

    this is an interesting application- for a long time it has been known that cancer has drastically different biochemistry [clearly seen on some MRI scans] so it stands to reason they might also have odd electrical properties as well. since the treatment is confined to the immediate area near electrods placed on the skin of the scull any other effects would be limited to that area as well.
    • But is that how it works? are electrodes applied to the skin and only the cells in the immediate vicinity are affected? So how deep does the field penetrate the body? If the answer is not very deep then you couldn't treat stuff like cervical cancer or colon cancer, because you can't stick electrodes (comfortably?) onto those body parts. If its a big field, however, that you slide the person into (like an MRI [wikipedia.org]) with a deep-penetrating field, it'd make more sense.
      • the answer is not very deep then you couldn't treat stuff like cervical cancer or colon cancer,
        I think that is about half right. because the field can not penetrate too far from the electrodes you would need to insert them inside the body to work. as for them being uncomfortable, it depends on how strong the field is. if it is very strong there would need to be a way to desensitize nerves to the field- this can be in the form of anesthetics or outright temporary overload of nerves. that isnt as danger
      • We're talking about brain cancer. The electricity only has to go through the skull.
        If the field is too shallow to go through the skull, trepanning should allow electrodes to get close to almost any brain tumor that needs killing, though you would have to place them carefully.
      • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:50PM (#19317409) Journal
        But is that how it works? are electrodes applied to the skin and only the cells in the immediate vicinity are affected?

        Yes, in the current iteration it seems that it delivers electric fields directly through the scalp:

        http://www.novocuretrial.com/science.html [novocuretrial.com]

        The NovoTTF-100A device used in this trial delivers very low intensity, alternating electric fields to the tumor site through the scalp.

        If the answer is not very deep then you couldn't treat stuff like cervical cancer or colon cancer, because you can't stick electrodes (comfortably?) onto those body parts. If its a big field, however, that you slide the person into (like an MRI) with a deep-penetrating field, it'd make more sense.

        I'm wondering if transcranial magnetic stimulation [wikipedia.org] (a technique I work with, but in a very different context) could be useful in non-invasively delivering such a field. It's effective depth is only a couple of centimeters max (unless somebody's using an experimental Deep TMS [brainsway.com] system), but it might be better than scalp electrodes. It would be impossible to get it to run continuously at the 100-300kHz rate that their 2004 journal paper says is needed, but it's possible that single rapidly-changing pulses at a slower rate could have the desired effect.
        • by jc42 (318812)
          If the answer is not very deep then you couldn't treat stuff like cervical cancer or colon cancer, because you can't stick electrodes (comfortably?) onto those body parts.

          Well, I don't have a cervix, but I've been told by people who do that inserting things next to it and vibrating them can be quite pleasurable. I've also been told that some people do similar things with their colon, though I haven't personally tried this.

          I mean, really; what's the problem with getting an electrode next to or inside a cerv
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shaitand (626655)
        'So how deep does the field penetrate the body? If the answer is not very deep then you couldn't treat stuff like cervical cancer or colon cancer'

        My exhaustive study of the Slashdot summary leads me to believe this only being used on brain cancer. The electrical field prevents the cells from dividing and healthy brain cells rarely divide. The implication seems to be that this wouldn't work elsewhere because the cells in other parts of the body divide quite frequently.

      • by twitter (104583) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @11:32PM (#19317675) Homepage Journal

        If the answer is not very deep then you couldn't treat stuff like cervical cancer or colon cancer, because you can't stick electrodes (comfortably?) onto those body parts.

        It's not comfortable, but it's nicer than dying. It's called brachytherapy [cancerhelp.org.uk].

  • by Vexor (947598)
    What a shocking discovery. Bad joke's aside, it's always great to see stuff like this. Gratz to the lucky survivors.
  • It is always nice to see news like this. People generally get too much bad news that causes fear. It's cool to see something that gives hope that we aren't all *$&#holes and we're doing some good things that save lives. =)
  • by Sase (311326) <.sase. .at. .5ecg.com.> on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:22PM (#19316785) Homepage
    The basis of all chemotherapy and the like has constantly focused on the fundamental differences between cancerous cells and normal cells: ie the fact that they're not dividing rapidly.

    This is why people who receive chemo have problems with diarrhea and hair loss.. it just so happens that those cells are rapidly dividing and are affected just as well.

    However, other treatments (few and far between,) such for Chronic Mylogenous Leukemia using Gleevac, which is designed to target the BCR-ABL fusion protein or Herceptin, used against breast cancers that overexpress ErbB2 receptor, are both novel in the sense that they exploit even more unique features of the cancer. That's what makes them so fantastic.

    This new therapy won't provide too many benefits as far as the nastyness of treatment b/c it works just like chemo (in the case of metastases.) However, in the case of solid tumors ie GBM schwannomas, etc. perhaps it could be useful.

    By the way, 10 patients is nearly not enough to be conclusive in any respect.

    • by timmarhy (659436) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:31PM (#19316849)
      it's a little more then re inventing the wheel, it's a new method of treating some cancers which doesn't invovle almost killing the person with chemo and destroying their immune system.

      and they aren't claiming anything conclusive, but with such promising results with 10 people it warrants serious research.

      maybe when YOU come up with a cure for cancer you can be a little more critical, ok?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The basis of all chemotherapy and the like has constantly focused on the fundamental differences between cancerous cells and normal cells: ie the fact that they're not dividing rapidly.

      Ummm, no.

      There are many, many differences aside from the fact that cancer cells are dividing rapidly.
    • by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:51PM (#19317423) Homepage
      1) I have been battling cancer for three years; I'm pretty familiar with the methods and mechanisms of treatment.

      2) I've read that it's a myth that cancer cells divide more quickly than healthy cells. The defect is that they continue dividing when they should sense that it's time to stop dividing. It's a matter of duration rather than rate.

      3) There are many different kinds of chemotherapy. Some make hair fall out, some cause diarrhea, some cause nausea, some damage skin, some make nerves go whacky. I've had all of those side effects from one drug or another. There are BIG differences between chemotherapies which must mean there are differences in their effect on cells.

      4) Brain cancers are particulary troublesome because many drugs can't crossing the blood-brain barrier. Electromagnetism could be very useful where chemotherapy is ineffective.

      5) Immunotherapy can be useful at slowing tumor growth or making cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy. But immunotherapy alone often isn't enough, and immunotherapy can have very nasty side effects. I suffered much pain and scarring from Erbitux, a drug that blocks epithelial growth factor, but it didn't do a lick of good for my colon cancer.

      6) A trial on ten patients won't be the basis for widespread application of this method. But positive results in a human trial is far ahead of many of the supposed breakthroughs that we read about on Slashdot.

      AlpineR
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Sase (311326)
        I'm sorry that you're having to deal with cancer. It certainly is an uphill battle.

        Nothing can be more experiential than actually going through the treatment yourself, and I applaud you on your efforts to research and figure out what's going on..

        In regards to #2, it's a matter of symantecs. It is true, they do not divide faster, so to speak, they divide more often. The reason for this is (at least, so far mostly, for which mechanisms have been elucidated,) is because certain elements of the cell (ie prote
      • Hang in there -- I hope you get well soon.

        • Why did this get modded funny?
          • by ameline (771895)
            I wasn't trying to be funny -- I know I've got a pretty sick sense of humour, but I draw the line at joking about someone else's potentially fatal condition.

            Unless they themselves start naming their tumors (Jim, Bob etc) -- then they're fair game :-)

            But seriously, Cancer is a real bitch -- and I genuinely wish this guy a speedy recovery.

      • Re #2

        It depends on the cancer.

        To simplify (hopefully not misleadingly so), there are agressive cancers and indolent cancers. Agressive cancers do in fact divide more frequently than healthy cells. And this is the reason why treatments for agressive cancers are, in some respects, more successful than for indolent cancers. But it is very much a double edged sword - kill or cure. With indolent cancers the treatment is more difficult because the difference between these cancers and normal cells, in terms of cel
    • by uncreativ (793402)
      Interesting perspective. However I think one point in the article was that this was helpful specificaly for treating brain cancer. While I'm not an oncologist, I suspect one challenge in treating brain cancer with chemotherapy is the blood/brain barrier.

      While the article does discuss possible uses for other cancers, I suspect that the studies have focused on brain cancer simply because it's easy to focus an electric field on a portion of the body, and non-cancerous brain cells are at the botton ranking for
    • This new therapy won't provide too many benefits as far as the nastyness of treatment b/c it works just like chemo (in the case of metastases.) However, in the case of solid tumors ie GBM schwannomas, etc. perhaps it could be useful.

      You can apply EM fields to small volumes and does not have to be a whole body treatment. Getting a uniform field through a person would be difficult.

    • > ... with diarrhea and hair loss.. ... those cells ... ...and, what, pray tell, is a diarrhea cell?

      A hair cell, I can imagine, but...well, no. Just no.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Most brain tumors (the subject of the article) are resistant to drug therapies. That leaves radiation, of the high frequency ionizing variety, which definitely does have negative effects on normal tissue. If the effect is real it will be a big thing.

      Chemotherapy isn't much fun, but it's a lot better than nothing. Many cancers are no longer death sentences because of its development. Yes, newer, more targeted treatments can be better, but note that that they're usually specific to a particular type of ca
  • Maybe ol' Wilhelm [wilhelmreichmuseum.org] wasn't so far off base after all.
  • by Sase (311326) <.sase. .at. .5ecg.com.> on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:25PM (#19316805) Homepage
    The article states that the cells in the brain don't really replicate or regenerate.

    However, recent research has shown that cells in the area of the hippocampus do in fact replicate, and are indicated in the role they play in cancer:

    Take a peak:
    http://www.biopsychiatry.com/newbraincell/index.ht ml [biopsychiatry.com]
    • The article states that the cells in the brain don't really replicate or regenerate.
      FTFA & summary: "Healthy brain cells rarely divide".
  • watch some asshole will make a comment "oh but what about the long term effects?" and then propose a bullshit natural treatment.

    little do they realise when you have brain cancer, long term effects are meaningless when you would otherwise die in the short term

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Oh! But what about the long term effects?

      Personally, I am a big fan of homeopathic treatments. Everyone knows that the long term effects of electromagnetic fields are cancers. That's why I say not to use them for treatment! Go for the treatment that will not produce those nasty long term effects!

      Homeopathy! Yeah, that's the ticket!
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        the beauty of the "long term effects" scare tactic is no one can proof you wrong for 10 or 20 years, and even then you can say "oh but it takes LONGER to have effects".

        the only way to bust assholes that make these claims is not to play the game, and demand THEY prove their statement. putting the work back on them usually shines the spot light of science and truth on them, and they run away.

        • by russotto (537200)

          the only way to bust assholes that make these claims is not to play the game, and demand THEY prove their statement. putting the work back on them usually shines the spot light of science and truth on them, and they run away.

          No, then they say "The evil drug/medical device companies have the money and resources, they should do the proving". Or they screech "precautionary principle, precautionary principle", thus nicely demonstrating the invalidity of that "principle".

      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        *sigh* You really didn't get it at all. How does homeopathy work? You take something that causes the same symptoms and dilute it down to near nothingness. Now think: If EM fields cause cancers diluted EM fields heal it. Which is why both the patient and the electrodes should be put into a tub of water.
    • and then propose a bullshit natural treatment.

      Never underestimate the power of a good chant! :)

      Especially with an Enya song playing in the background.

      Oh, and candles. Preferably Wiccan.

      • by timmarhy (659436) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:29PM (#19317259)
        my most hated of all "natural" therapies is iridology. it's the classic example of people thinking putting an ology at the end of something makes it a science.

        worst of all is the claims these idiots make, such as being able to diagnose illnesses just by the colour of your eyes. These charlatans usually try backup their nonsense with fake creditals from bogus "medical schools" of natural treatments.

        the standard bullshit line is "oh look your eyes have -insert fake medical term- you must be low on -insert random vitamin- you need to buy this $80 bottle of - some product with the phrase natural whatever in it, which is filled with pills containing processed rubbish from china-"

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      I wonder what the long term effects of taking impure, nonstandardized doses of untested drugs is.
  • that the people were also taking daily doses of snake oil too.
  • No! (Score:5, Funny)

    by kitsunewarlock (971818) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:28PM (#19316831) Journal
    I'm not putting high-voltage machinery next to my BRAIN. That'll cause...oh wait.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zCyl (14362)

      I'm not putting high-voltage machinery next to my BRAIN. That'll cause...oh wait.

      You laugh (and you should perhaps, because it's funny), but there's a deeper underlying truth. This is clear evidence that we cannot haphazardly dismiss all concerns about electromagnetic interaction with biological systems as "obvious hogwash", like is so frequently done on Slashdot. If you watch the field, you'll see that there are a large number of non-thermal non-ionizing mechanisms for biological effects like this.

  • Shit! I hope Alex Chiu didn't patent his magic everlasting magnetic rings, or everyone with cancer is fucked!
  • If we require TTF emissions to be generated, anywhere EMF emissions are generated, then one could guarentee that treatment-time would be equal to exposure-time. Brilliant!
  • one more reason ill keep my tin foil hat on the man created a device that will cure me but IS TRAING ME for the MK ultra project!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MK_Ultra [wikipedia.org]
  • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:49PM (#19316995) Journal
    There is a lot of fuss about whether cell phones, wi-fi etc. can damage bodies and minds by their radio waves. Although there is a lot of fuss, it is not justified by much (any?) significant scientific data.

    Now it is shown that "intermediate frequency electrical fields" (whatever that means) can damage cancerous brain cells. Does this mean that a physiological effect (beneficial in this case) has been demonstrated, so that an adverse effect becomes more plausible?

    I have no idea of the frequencies and amplitudes involved in the two cases (tumour treating fields vs. cell phones).* I'm guessing that the situations are so different that this result says nothing about the physiological effects of cell-phone exposure, but as the linked article contains no useful information about this, and the paper is unavailable, it is just a guess.

    * I've looked for the paper on the PNAS website, but I can't find it - perhaps it is accepted but not yet published.
  • Intermediate between what and what, pray tell?
    • It's intermediate between beginning and advanced! These in particular must be present often enough to be said to be in attendance with some frequency, but clearly perfect attendance would put them in the advanced placement and that won't do at all. They should start with band members.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TimSSG (1068536)
      "Low-intensity, intermediate-frequency (100-300 kHz), alternating electric fields, delivered by means of insulated electrodes, were found to have a profound inhibitory effect on the growth rate of a variety of human and rodent tumor cell lines" From: http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/full /64/9/3288 [aacrjournals.org] Tim S
      • Ten thousand times lower frequency than wi-fi, five thousand times higher than power lines. Below the AM radio band.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Indeed, that should cause very serious concern for anyone who owns a GSM cell phone, as I'm pretty sure the frequency that the radio switches on and off when looking for a tower falls within that range, resulting in that obnoxious chirping in your computer speakers.

        Has anyone done any research to test the effects of GSM tower probing on the human body?

  • OK, so now cell phones can *cure* cancer! :-)

  • by nanosquid (1074949) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:23PM (#19317221)
    The physics geniuses on Slashdot, not to mention the cell phone industry, keep saying that electromagnetic radiation is non-ionizing, so it can't affect the brain!
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Cell phone radiation is non ionizing. Note that the study they're talking about showed that whatever fields they're using interfere with the tumor growth but DON'T cause any adverse effects in normal tissue. There's a difference between convincing a cell it doesn't want to divide and screwing up it's DNA enough to cause it to become cancerous. A big difference.
      • Cell phone radiation is non ionizing.

        Yes, you're stating the obvious.

        There's a difference between convincing a cell it doesn't want to divide and screwing up it's DNA enough to cause it to become cancerous. A big difference.

        The argument for the safety of cell phones has been that non-ionizing radiation can't affect cell growth at all. The fact that this does is a bad sign. And interfering with specific subpopulations of cells can be very bad. By analogy, imagine you had a big beam that can be tuned to
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)
          Well, somebody has to state the obvious, apparently.

          Nobody who knows what they're talking about would claim that non-ionizing radiation can't affect cells. If nothing else it can heat them, even to the point where they die. It's a well established treatment for, among other things, cancer.

          Heating up a cell will cause it to die, but it does not cause it to become cancerous. Cooling down a cell will cause it to die but not to become cancerous. Slapping a cell around will cause it to die but not to become
          • Heat can change the shape of proteins and they control the expression of genes so it could have a mutagenic effect. I just doubt the intensity of the radiation would come close to that level.
            • by ceoyoyo (59147)
              It could have. It hasn't been shown though. To the contrary, there are a lot of thermal ablation therapies that are used on patients who survive for a long time and there is no unusual increase in cancer in those patients. That's at power levels WAY higher than anything you'd get normally. Also, a slight fever will cause a bigger temperature rise in your brain than a cell phone and the temperature in various parts of your body routinely varies considerably more than allowable RF heating.

              Before someone m
          • Nobody who knows what they're talking about would claim that non-ionizing radiation can't affect cells. If nothing else it can heat them

            It's (obviously) the "something else" that we're talking about here.

            Heating up a cell will cause it to die, but it does not cause it to become cancerous. Cooling down a cell will cause it to die but not to become cancerous. Slapping a cell around will cause it to die but not to become cancerous.

            You have a simplistic and incorrect understanding of processes that can cause ca
            • by ceoyoyo (59147)
              Concerns about something "causing cancer" are public health concerns, not individual concerns. A 20% increased risk of brain cancer would not be something to worry about for you or me, but it is something to worry about for society as a whole.

              Which is why lots and lots of studies have been and are being done on it. The only really big one I know of showed no increase. None. Some studies have shown possible mechanisms, but that's not the same thing as showing an actual effect. In light of that, in absenc
              • In light of that, in absence of new evidence, claiming cell phones present a cancer risk is scare mongering.

                Well, then you should complain to people who are making such claims; I am not.

                I'm just pointing out that this result shows that anybody who claimed that non-ionizing radiation is inherently safe (other than heating effects or electrocution) is full of shit: any kind of radiation that has the ability to kill specific cell types is potentially dangerous, and we can determine whether it is safe only thro
                • by ceoyoyo (59147)
                  You're making an assumption that's as bad as the one you're arguing against. You have no idea what the mechanism behind this effect is. It's perfectly possible that it's attracting immune cells to the site. Electric currents are known to do that elsewhere in the body. I also don't remember anything in the study about killing cells -- all they showed was that patients treated with the electric fields tended to live longer.

                  As I said, LOTS of those careful experiments have been done. They've shown non-ion
                  • You're making an assumption that's as bad as the one you're arguing against.

                    I'm making no assumptions at all.

                    You have no idea what the mechanism behind this effect is. It's perfectly possible that it's attracting immune cells to the site. Electric currents are known to do that elsewhere in the body. I also don't remember anything in the study about killing cells -- all they showed was that patients treated with the electric fields tended to live longer.

                    Will you get it through your thick head that I'm NOT ar
    • by zCyl (14362)

      The physics geniuses on Slashdot, not to mention the cell phone industry, keep saying that electromagnetic radiation is non-ionizing, so it can't affect the brain!

      And cows are spherical too. :)
  • Crap! (Score:3, Funny)

    by wtansill (576643) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:35PM (#19317303)
    Now the phone and Wi-Fi industries can tout their offerings as "medical devices" and jack up the selling price. Meanwhile, aluminum futures will crater is it can be "proven" that tin-foil hats block "beneficial" radio frequencies...
  • by qparadox (1105733) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @11:36PM (#19317691)
    Taken from the US Clinical Trials Site:
    http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct/show/NCT00379470?orde r=2 [clinicaltrials.gov]

    "Since they change direction very rapidly (200 thousand times a second), they do not cause muscles to twitch, nor do they have any effects on other electrically activated tissues in the body (brain, nerves and heart). Since the intensities of TTFields in the body are very low, they do not cause heating."
    ->So it appears to be low intensity EM radiation at approximately 200 kHz.

    "Due to the unique geometric shape of cancer cells when they are multiplying, TTFields cause the building blocks of these cells to move and pile up in such a way that the cells physically explode."

    ->To me it sounds like a rather localized effect requiring significant tuning to see any effect meaning that you're still safe to use your cell phone and can save the tinfoil for BBQing.
    • If tuned low frequency fields affect cell division and geometry - I find myself wondering if the body _uses_ this effect to coordinate the growth of structures...
  • It's great that some sort of electromagnetic field might have a therapeutic value against brain tumors. But this news doesn't decrease the concern about cell phone/Wi-Fi radiation and brain tumors...quite the opposite...since something that has ANY demonstrated effect can obviously have a negative effect as well. The cell phone industry has maintained for years that there could not possibly be any effect on a living brain of cell phone radiation, even in the face of studies [emrnetwork.org] showing increases [telegraph.co.uk] in tumors [technologyreview.com] as
  • Is what concerns me most.

    In 2005 I was referred to an ECT (ElectroConvulsive Therapy sometimes called the old term Electroshock) program for treatment of treatment resistent unipolar depression I've had for 13 years. The doctors only told me the legal minimum of possible side effects. I had 30 grand mal seizures, the minimum considered therapeutic. They couldn't do anymore because I was maxxed out on caffeine and my heart was going into irregular rhythms when they'd try to prolong the seizure with more
    • I have a seizure disorder myself. What surprises me about ECT is that nobody has gone to the trouble of isolating the site and mechanism of the positive effects so that the treatment can be better directed.

      Electrocuting somebody's head is a pretty stupid thing to do in this day and age because you are going to be operating on different parts of the brain at the same time.

      They should be getting neurosurgeons to position electrodes deep into the brain for this kind of thing but I imagine that the neurosurgeon
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      I don't understand the jargon in that article. I do understand that physical and emotional suffering of disease will put a patient at risk to fall prey to unethical procedures. I cannot say if some of those will be in the name of research leading to better treatments. I just know that when you have a death sentence, a limited time and the pain is untreatable, ethical treatment of a patient is huge. I'm going to be very careful about letting doctors put electricity into my brain again.

      I can understand your c
  • by FreshnFurter (599451) <frank_vdh@nOSpAm.yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @04:37AM (#19319019)

    I should precurse this by saying that I am a medical physicist, irradiating cancer cells is what I do for a living.

    Unlike the hype and scaremongering about cell phones, this actually has some science behind it. An article in Cancer Research (2004) (: Cancer Res. 2004 May 1;64(9):3288-95.) desribes the same technique (by the same authors) applied in vitro. This means they took some cancer cells in a test tube and subjected them to the fields. There they saw that over the course of 24 hours there is an inhibition in growth, over several days in tumors implanted in mice a reduction in tumor growth was seen (this means that the tumor grows slower).

    Independently, a group in Cleveland investigated the influence of electric fields at very low frequencies (50Hz, yes that's the frequency of our daily AC-current) and found inhibition of cell cycles, (this means that the cell is moving through it's cycle).

    To put things into context, we see some inhibition at low frequency (50Hz), and disruption of cell division at 100-300kHz. Cell phones work at frequencies of the horder of GHz. (for you slashdotters, replacing Hz with bytes will tell you all you need to now about the relative values of kHz, MHz and GHz ;-) )

    So I am reasonably optimistic that there is some truth to all this. However, there seems to be a selectivity that will not work as an advantage all of the time. The technique only seems to work if the field is switched on during cell mitosis. This means it will only work on cells that are actively replicating. So the it will only work well if and when the cells you are targeting have a different proliferation rate, than the ones you do not want to affect. Of course brain cells are a good example as their replication rate is extremely slow (if any).

    Some caveats: The experiment (in vitro) as described, has not been reproduced by an independent group. The number of patients used in the in vivo experiment is very low, too low to distinguish with any significant probability that the results obtained are not merely a statistical effect. The results however are promising. But that is the way science works. Slowly and methodically: FYI there is a specific way things are done when new modalities are found: 1) You look for dose effects, what is the dose that does no harm. This means you take a group of people and give each subsection and ever increasing dose until you see some bad effects. 2) Then perform a study of efficacy giving a large group of people the determined dose and see if there still is an effect, 3) Finally you compare this with a standard of care (the thing you normally do) with your new stuff in a double blind study (which means you, nor the patient knows beforehand what the treatment is going to be and see if you see a different cure rate.

    You might say, if it is so good we want it now. I can say the process described above goes faster the bigger the difference is with the standard of care.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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