A new treatment for late-stage pleural mesothelioma may help patients live longer. Mesothelioma tumor treating fields (TTFields) administer electrical currents to disrupt cell division and prevent the cancer from growing. In an initial study, the median survival rate for mesothelioma patients increased by over 30% as a result of this treatment.
What Are Mesothelioma TTFields?
Mesothelioma TTFields are a cancer treatment that relies on electrical currents. Pads attached to a portable generator are applied to the patient’s chest. These pads deliver finely tuned electrical frequencies to mesothelioma tumors beneath the skin.
The electrical currents prevent the tumors from growing and even shrink them in some cases.
This non-invasive treatment offers hope to late-stage pleural mesothelioma patients who formerly had fewer treatment options.
97% of patients experienced tumor shrinkage after using mesothelioma TTfields, according to Novocure (the company that developed the treatment).
TTFields were approved to treat mesothelioma patients by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2019. This marked the first new mesothelioma treatment approved by the FDA in more than 15 years. It is currently known as Optune Lua (formerly known as the NovaTTFTM-100L System).
How Do Mesothelioma TTFields Work?
Mesothelioma TTFields transmit alternating electrical currents through the chest wall directly into the cancer tumors.
The electrical signals interfere with deadly cancer cell duplication, causing the cells to die.
A small portable generator is attached by wire to insulated ceramic disks called “transducer arrays,” which are adhered to the skin to deliver the electrical currents.
The miniature generator fits into a pack carried by the patient to allow mobility. Patients must wear the device for 18 hours a day for the treatment to be effective.
Mesothelioma TTFields and Chemotherapy
Doctors use TTFields in conjunction with chemotherapy for stage 4 pleural mesothelioma patients for best results.
Chemotherapy drugs like pemetrexed and cisplatin are given intravenously to add an extra line of defense in these patients. These drugs kill invasive cancer cells in late-stage patients with a goal to shrink tumors and inhibit growth.
Benefits of Mesothelioma TTFields
Improved Mesothelioma Prognosis
Clinical trials show that patients who receive mesothelioma TTFields may be able to live longer.
Between 2015 and 2017, 80 late-stage pleural mesothelioma patients who were not candidates for surgery joined a clinical trial that tested TTFields. The patients received chemotherapy alongside the mesothelioma TTField treatment.
The median life expectancy of patients in the trial was 18.2 months. This is very higher than the standard life expectancy of 8-12 months for pleural mesothelioma patients.
Further, 41.9% of the patients in this trial were still alive after two years — a drastic increase from the standard 17% two-year survival rate for stage 4 pleural mesothelioma patients.
Other Benefits of Mesothelioma TTFields
- Limited side effects: The most common side effect in patients was slight skin irritation where the transducer arrays attached to the skin. Other mesothelioma treatments like chemotherapy and radiation may have more severe side effects (like hair loss, nausea, and fatigue).
- Portable: Patients do not need to spend all day in a hospital while receiving this treatment. At only six pounds, the device is lightweight and can be carried around in a purse or bag so the user can resume normal activities.
- Discreet: The transducer arrays are easily covered by clothing, with the only visible sign being a small wire that attaches to the generator.
How to Access Mesothelioma TTFields
Only a licensed physician can prescribe mesothelioma TTFields. Patients can ask their mesothelioma doctor about Optune Lua if they have late-stage pleural mesothelioma and cannot receive other treatments like surgery.
Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma do not qualify for this treatment at this time.
The FDA excludes patients who have pacemakers or other implanted electronic devices as the TTFields could damage them. Those allergic to hydrogels (a gel that acts as a barrier between the skin and the transducer arrays) are also not recommended for this treatment.
Learn More About Mesothelioma TTFields & Other Treatments
TTFields are an important new therapy for pleural mesothelioma patients who have limited treatment options.
While not every patient can use mesothelioma TTFields, clinical trials are testing new treatments to combat mesothelioma. These trials may be able to help patients live longer if they cannot receive standard treatments.
Our patient advocates can tell you more about mesothelioma treatments, clinical trials, and how you can access them. See all the ways we can help you.