Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) for Mesothelioma
Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) is the second-ever cancer therapy treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mesothelioma. Novocure Optune, the creator of the Tumor Treating Fields, recommends using their NovoTTF-100L™ System, now under the brand name Optune Lua™, in combination with pemetrexed and platinum-based chemotherapy. The relatively new mesothelioma treatment uses low-intensity electrical currents to halt cancerous cell division and slow the growth of tumors. The FDA approved the TTFields treatment in 2019 and has helped expand access to mesothelioma and asbestosis therapy across the nation.
How Do Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) Work?
Tumor Treating Fields utilize applies alternating fields of electricity that are low in intensity at various frequencies. The TTFields device delivers electrical fields through insulated fields that are often adhered to the patient’s head or other areas where cancer may live, such as the mesothelium. The 100 to 300 kilohertz electrical fields are delivered at 1 to 3 volts per centimeter through insulated pads that adhere to the skin. By utilizing different frequencies while delivering the treatment, the electrical fields are able to enter cancer cells and prevent their proteins from properly functioning. This process disrupts the cancer cell division process, which is vital to stopping the growth and metastasis of cancer tumors.
Although TTfields therapy is incredible on its own, doctors prefer to pair the treatment alongside chemotherapy. Researchers from a Tumor Treating Fields study concluded that the addition of both therapies increases the production of proteins that damage cancer cells and decreases the production of those that repair cancer DNA. This pairing ultimately helps the body to fight cancer cells, reducing cancer cell and tissue metastasis, which can be studied by your pathologist.
What To Expect When Using TTFields
When undergoing TTFields mesothelioma experimental treatment, you can expect to receive a portable immunotherapy device that can be used anywhere. The system contains a TTFields-generating device, rechargeable batteries with chargers, a power supply, a carrying bag, and insulated pads. The bag provides you with the option of mobility as you can wear it as a backpack or carry it as a bag. The system is only prescribed with chemotherapy, meaning you must undergo chemotherapy to use the device. You can bring your TTFields system to the medical center in which you will undergo treatment.
Wherever you choose to administer the TTFields mesothelioma treatment, researchers advise you to wear the pads for 18 to 20 hours a day for the best results. You can attach the four pads to the advised areas, including the head, chest, and other body parts, dependent on where your cancer is located by your oncologist. For those with mesothelioma or asbestosis, the pads will often attach to the front and back of your chest to target the cancer cells in your lungs. When you are ready to use the system, you should apply the pads to a clean, shaven area where there are no other medical devices or injuries.
Once you attach the pads and turn on the system, you are ready to carry on with other activities. When using this new treatment for asbestosis, you can return to your regular activities such as chores, running errands, working, or walking. The batteries should be charged, and you can you use the rechargeable battery pack if you are on the go. The pads should be changed every two to three days. Most doctors recommend you receive chemotherapy with Alimta and cisplatin or carboplatin every three weeks for six full cycles when using the TTFields Optune device.
Are Tumor Treating Fields Effective?
Since 2000, Novocure has been developing a noninvasive technology to treat mesothelioma cancer. The company’s TTFields treatment was first approved by the FDA in 2011 to treat a rare type of brain cancer, glioblastoma. After years of effectiveness, Novocure has been testing TTFields’ mechanism of action with other conditions like mesothelioma and asbestosis. Currently, the FDA has only approved TTFields treatment for mesothelioma and glioblastoma.
According to the report, Tumor Treating Fields are effective in treating mesothelioma. Mesothelioma patients in the trial who only received chemotherapy lived an average of 12.1 months; however, those who received TTField in addition to chemotherapy reported an overall survival rate of 18.2 months. The addition of TTFields therapy helped study patients live an average of six months longer than those without. Therefore, a mesothelioma specialist can only prescribe tumor-treating fields when the patient is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
Are There Any Side Effects to TTFields Treatment?
After receiving treatment from TTFields and chemotherapy, you can expect to feel fine for the first few hours. However, after about four to six hours later, you may begin to feel run down. After about the third day following chemotherapy, you may experience flu-like symptoms such as aches and pains, nausea, and high fevers. After discussing with your doctors, they may recommend you take over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or Advil, or they may prescribe you a stronger medication for mesothelioma. TTFields offer an improved survival rate but do come with a few low-risk side effects, as most medicines do.
Common side effects of TTFields and chemotherapy include:
- Chest pain
- Cough or hemoptysis
- Device skin irritation
- Itchy or irritated skin
Less common side effects of the device and chemotherapy are:
- Allergic reaction to pads
- Muscle twitching
- Pain or topical burns from overheated patches
- Skin infections or ulcers
- Tingling sensations
- Treatment-related skin toxicity
You can do a few things to combat or treat these side effects. First and foremost, doctors recommend that you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This may include eating a healthy, balanced diet, remaining active, and prioritizing a positive mindset. We recommend finding a support group or undergoing counseling to support your mental health throughout the process. Additionally, you may need to utilize other remedies like:
- Wash your hands
- Utilize palliative care
- Do not eat raw foods
- Take over-the-counter medications
- East small, light meals
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take naps and maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Participate in light exercise
- Brush your teeth and use mouthwash
Which Medical Centers Offer Tumor Treating Fields Treatment?
Tumor treating fields may be the right treatment for your mesothelioma journey. TTFields are available to treat mesothelioma throughout the United States by participating in clinical trials. However, not all cancer centers offer TTFields treatment for mesothelioma patients. You can also receive direct information about tumor-treating fields through Optune’s pioneer, Novocure.
If you would like to participate in a TTFields clinical trial, but are unsure of where to find a participating doctor, we can help. Mesothelioma Hub has the ability to connect you with a top mesothelioma doctor to recommend tumor treating fields therapy. Additionally, if you were negligently exposed to asbestos and later developed mesothelioma, you may be eligible for compensation. Get in touch with us today to learn more about your settlement options.