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Electrodes fight brain cancer

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 02/17/2007

Electrodes fight brain cancer
2/16/2007 3:28 PM
By: Ivanhoe Broadcast News
A pad with 36 electrodes is placed on the patient's head.  
BACKGROUND: Nearly 20,500 American men and women will find out they have a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in 2007, according to the American Cancer Society. About 12,740 people will die. Though brain and spinal cord cancer is rare, accounting for only 1.3 percent of all cancers, it has one of the most grim prognoses.
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University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago
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(800) 597-5970


Glioblastoma multiforme is the most aggressive form of primary brain tumor. These tumors are made of glial cells in the brain. Glial cells are not responsible for the functions of the mind, like neurons. If neurons were presidents of companies making up the corporation of the mind, glial cells are the offices, desks, cleaning crew, cooks and secretaries keeping them going. When glial cells grow out of control, forming a glioblastoma, the tumor can invade the brain. The symptoms seen in people with glioblastoma tumors depend on where the cancer is growing and which part of the brain is being affected. Untreated, glioblastoma multiforme is rapidly lethal.

CAUSES: Cigarette smoke and other carcinogens don't affect the brain in the same way as other parts of the body. In fact, the brain is shielded from most chemicals. Experts believe most brain tumors are caused by genetic abnormalities that arise for no apparent reason.

TREATMENT: Treatment is often a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Because of the blood brain barrier, some chemotherapeutic agents are placed directly in the tumor. Another technique involves tiny tubes placed in the tumor to deliver chemotherapy right to the tumor, avoiding problems with the blood brain barrier and side effects in the rest of the body.

NEW TREATMENT: Researchers at several hospitals around the United States are currently testing a new way to treat gliomas. By applying an electrical field to the brain, scientists have found dividing cancer cells will explode. This can significantly slow down the growth of the tumor and extend the life of the patient by months or even years. The device, called NovoTTF-100A, is worn by the patient for 22 hours a day. Electrodes attached to the outside of the head pinpoint the electrical fields to the tumors. The maker of the device reports two of 10 patients in the pilot study are still alive, and their tumors have not progressed more than two years after starting treatment. Other patients in the trial doubled the amount of time before their tumor progressed compared to patients not receiving the new treatment. This therapy does not cause the same side effects as chemotherapy and radiation. Some patients have experienced skin irritation beneath the electrodes

CENTERS PARTICIPATING IN TRIALS: University of Illinois at Chicago; Northwestern University in Chicago; Boston University; NJ Neuroscience Institute - JFK Medical Center in New Jersey; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York; Columbia University Medical Center in New York; Cleveland Clinic in Ohio; Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus; Allegheny-Singer Research Institute in Pittsburgh; University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Va.; Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis.


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