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Electric field treatment takes aim at brain cancer

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

Nice article about a man who is using the Novocure device.

(Disclosure: The company that makes Novocure is one of our sponsors)


Posted on: 12/27/2012

Electric field treatment takes aim at brain cancer

Treatment has shown promise in extending life for some patients by interfering with cell division


GateHouse News Service

Posted Dec 25, 2012 @ 10:43 PM

J.T. Rodgers already has lived about twice as long as the average person treated for

glioblastoma, the most common and deadliest form of brain cancer.

So the Springfield man welcomed the chance to live longer, even if the extension might be only

six months - thanks to a novel treatment option that uses electric fields to disrupt the

reproduction of cancer cells.

"I'm going to enjoy every minute I possibly can,"Rodgers, 67 , a former salesman and

correctional officer, said recently at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Simmons

Cancer Institute. "Every day is a gift, and all I have is today ."

For the past month or so, Rodgers has spent at least 18 hours a day wearing a special headgear

that positions strips of metal on his shaved scalp.

Those strips, known as transducer array s, conduct electricity and create electrical fields that

don't shock him, but do interfere with cell division and - doctors hope - might slow the inevitable

progression of brain cancer he was diagnosed with 24 months ago.

SIU neuro-oncologist Dr. Ayman Omar sought special training to bring NovoTTF treatment to

Springfield after it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 201 1 . He said

scans of the cancer in Rodgers' brain indicate the treatment may be working.

"Overall, it's about the same, which is a good outcome,"Omar said. "It is slowing things down.

The goal of treatment is to put the brakes on. We won't cure it. This is kind of the last resort type

of thing for people with very few options."

Glioblastoma strikes 10,000 to 20,000 Americans each y ear, most of them in their 60s and

older, Omar said. Glioblastoma killed U.S. Sen. Edward "Ted"Kennedy , D-Mass., in 2009 at age

7 7 .

Fewer side effects

Without any treatment, patients survive only six or eight weeks. With the classic treatment

combination of surgery , chemotherapy and radiation, patients live an average of 12 to 15 more


The cancer alway s returns, Omar said, and until NovoTTF came along, the only treatment option

after recurrence was more chemotherapy , which came with the common side effects of nausea,

severe fatigue and infection.

TTF, which stands for tumor treating fields, was shown in a study of about 240 patients to prolong life as well as

chemotherapy , but with fewer side effects and a better qualify of life.

"It's not a cure, but it's definitely better than no treatment at all,"Omar said.

The treatment, which costs $20,000 a month, is covered by most private insurance plans. Novocure, the company that has

provided NovoTTF to 1 ,000 patients worldwide the past few y ears, expects to get the Medicare program to pay for the

treatment within a few weeks.

Novocure, whose U.S. operations are based in Portsmouth, N.H., is providing the treatment for free to Medicare patients

while waiting for approval from the federal government, SIU officials said.

The treatment was invented by Israeli phy sician Dr. Y oram Palti, Novocure's chief technical officer, according to Novocure

executive chairman William Doy le.

The treatment is offered at more than 50 medical centers nationwide. Springfield is one of the smallest cities on the list.

The treatment doesn't hurt. Patients often come in for checkups once a week so their heads can be reshaved and the

connections checked to reduce and treat any scalp irritation, Omar said.

The headgear is connected by wires to a portable unit that patients can charge and carry with them.

"For the most part, it's acceptable,"Omar said. "Patients can function pretty well."

Omar so far has combined NovoTTF with the drug Avastin, which interferes with the formation of blood vessels feeding

cancer cells.

Other conditions

Rodgers was the first patient locally to receive NovoTTF. The other patient, a woman in her 50s, died from an apparent

complication of the cancer, though several weeks of NovoTTF treatment and Avastin did shrink her tumor, Omar said.Novocure is researching the potential for using the treatment on lung cancer, cancers that spread to the brain from other

parts of the body , and as a front-line treatment for glioblastoma.

Omar, who said he has no financial ties to Novocure, said the treatment is based on "solid science" and doesn't give patients

false hope.

The average that patients live with NovoTTF is six months, he said. But he said, "for some people, it could be much more."

Omar said he admires Rodgers, who already has beaten the odds in his battle with glioblastoma.

"He's such a feisty guy ,"Omar said. "He's really determined and a very , very loving kind of person. I think that helps."

Rodgers, a former smoker, lost part of his tongue when he was treated for throat cancer 14 y ears ago. However, he said the

throat cancer was unrelated to the brain cancer.

A former member of the Land of Lincoln Barbershop Chorus, Rodgers, a bass, said he hopes to return soon to entertaining

community groups with his singing of "old standards"by the Beatles, Perry Como and Dean Martin.

Married to wife Leona Rodgers for 22 y ears, he said he doesn't worry about the future and considers NovoTTF treatment a


If he survives longer, he said, he will continue to enjoy life.

If he dies, he said his Catholic faith gives him assurance that there is something to look forward to.

"I believe in Jesus Christ, and I'm going to be reunited with many relatives and friends,"Rodgers said. "I don't fear death, but

I don't encourage it.


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