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February 23rd 2018

Glioblastoma Treatment with an Innovative Therapy Device vs. Quality of Life of Glioblastoma Patients

Would a brain-cancer patient consider wearing a skullcap-like device that might extend his/her life for an additional five months on average? JAMA Oncology published the results of a quality of life study in brain-cancer patients undergoing “tumor-treating fields.”  Dr. Lia Halasz was invited to give an expert commentary on this research in JAMA Oncology, where she put the research findings into the perspective of the care and quality of life of glioma patients.

Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer that, with conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatment, is usually fatal within 12 to 15 months.  In a randomized clinical trial testing “tumor-treating fields” (TTFields), glioblastoma patients who shaved their heads and wore the therapy device for at least 18 hours a day lived an average of 4.9 months longer than those who were randomized to usual treatment.  The device has 4 transducer arrays with 9 insulated electrodes, which generates electric fields that interrupt the cell-division process to stop the cancer cells from multiplying.

Dr. Lia Halasz, an Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Washington commented about the findings and her patients’ decisions to use, or not use the TTFields device. “Many, if not most, of my patients opt against wearing the device, for reasons of comfort and appearance,” she said.

“You have to shave your head, which for many people is a big deal. You have to wear a very visible device on your head and you have to carry a battery pack that might affect your activities.”

“Patients with cancer want to get on with their daily lives, and with some sense of normalcy. Wearing a device on your head is a constant reminder that you have a glioblastoma.”

Dr. Halasz likened it to feelings experienced by women whose hair loss from treatment for breast cancer is a constant reminder of their cancer. “Many patients would opt not to wear it in the first place,” Dr. Halasz said. “Some patients are open to it because it’s new and different. But most don’t want the reminder of what they’re dealing with…I think this might shift, though, as wearable devices become more prevalent and society grows more comfortable with them.”

For more information on the commentary in JAMA Oncology in response to the Tumor-Treating Fields by Dr. Lia Halasz, please click here.  For more information on the Tumor-Treating Fields study, please click here.

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