Electric fields therapy improves survival for patients with brain tumor

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Bottom Line: Patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor who received a type of electric fields therapy that interferes with cell division had better overall survival and survival without progression of the tumor compared to standard chemotherapy.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain tumor, with only 1 in 4 patients surviving two years after diagnosis. There has been little progress in treating these tumors. Tumor-treating fields (TTFields) are a type of electric fields therapy that interferes with cell division by delivering low-intensity electric fields to the tumor through electrodes on the scalp and connected to a portable device.

Who and When: 695 patients with glioblastoma whose tumor was surgically removed or biopsied and who had completed chemotherapy. Patients were enrolled in the study from 2009-2014 and followed up through 2016.

What: Patients were treated with either TTFields plus the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (n = 466) or temozolomide alone (n = 229). Researchers measured survival without progression of the tumor and overall survival.

How (Study Design): This was a randomized clinical trial (RCT), which allows for the strongest inferences to be made about the true effect of an intervention. However, not all RCT results can be replicated in real-world settings because patient characteristics or other variables may differ from those that were studied in the RCT.

Authors: Roger Stupp, M.D., Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and coauthors

Results: The addition of TTFields to chemotherapy vs chemotherapy alone resulted in improvement in overall survival and progression-free survival.

Study Limitations: Participants and researchers knew of the treatments because it was not feasible practically and it was ethically unacceptable to expose patients to a sham device.

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Related material: The following related elements also are available on the For The Media website:

  • An animated summary video, available for viewing on this page and to embed on your website. Copy and paste the embed code below to embed the summary video on your website.
  • JAMA previously published the interim analysis of this RCT.

For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jama.2017.18718)

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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