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Biotech Science

Electrical Field Treats Brain Cancer 136

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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  • 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.
  • Get more Confused (Score:3, Informative)

    by Skinkie ( 815924 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:16PM (#19316741) Homepage
    I thought this was already claimed by George Lakhovsky, Nikola Tesla and Royal Raymond Rife. Called Resonance Therapy.
  • Re:Confused (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stewie241 ( 1035724 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:37PM (#19316911)

    Not new at all. We learned all about it in 1st year EE.

    See [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:57PM (#19317041)
    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 TimSSG ( 1068536 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:15PM (#19317161)
    "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: /64/9/3288 [] Tim S
  • 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: []

    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 [] (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 [] 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 AlpineR ( 32307 ) <> 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.

  • 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 [].

  • by qparadox ( 1105733 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @11:36PM (#19317691)
    Taken from the US Clinical Trials Site: r=2 []

    "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.
  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:04AM (#19317847) Homepage 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.

    The full article [] has great references which show biological effects. At least one of these articles is available in full as a pdf. They report repeatable experiments and show relationships to frequency and intensity.

    The disturbing part is that so much quack noise has been made about cell phone and wifi "radiation" that muddies the watter when so much useful information has been available since the 80's. It stinks that so much of society's resources were devoted to propagating noise when so much signal was available. This represents a complete failure of public education and broadcast media. At best, the failure is one of incompetence. At worst, it's intentional like the tobacco industry. Either way, the barriers must come down.

    People who want to own ideas and publications are evil. Most research is publically supported and the public deserves the knowledge.

  • by Sase ( 311326 ) <sase.5ecg@com> on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:09AM (#19317875) Homepage
    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 proteins,) regulate steps within the normal cell cycle that would normally, prevent it from dividing in the case of damage, for instance. Most of the chemotherapy (other than specific ones, such as EGF or VEGF, which are designed to limit the effects of endogenously derived 'growth' stimulators, that although not in excess, the cells become super responsive to,) is openly, as you can attest to, are really a shot in the dark.

    The idea of most chemotherapy (other than the specific ones..) is to damage the cell before it has a chance to repair itself. Cells that are constantly dividing don't have a chance, nor do they have the ability (in a variety of cancers,) to repair themselves, and in the process die.

    The differences in the hair loss, diarrhea etc. (Although, there are some other processes involved in a variety of side effects, but the major ones are due to the relative cytotoxicity,)is due to the intrinsic nature of the cells involved and the chemotheraputic agent used. ie case and point with your Blood brain barrier example.

    As you and I both said, this new finding could be very fantastic.. but its hard to say what long term effects it will have nor its relative precision.

  • Re:Get more Confused (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) * on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:59AM (#19318161) Journal
    I thought this was already claimed by George Lakhovsky, Nikola Tesla and Royal Raymond Rife. Called Resonance Therapy.

    Also by Edgar Cayce if I remember correctly -- he also mentioned the use of specific frequencies of light.

  • Re:No! (Score:3, Informative)

    by zCyl ( 14362 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @04:26AM (#19318949)

    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.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982