These answers are the opinions of Al Musella, DPM.
Click HERE to ask Al a general question about Optune™.
They are not to be taken as medical advice.
Verify anything you read on this (or any) website with your doctors!
To ask a specific question about your case,
contact one of the doctors who are certified in use of the Novocure device!
Last updated 11/15/2014
- What is Optune™?
Optune™, Formerly known as The Novocure TTF-100A system, is a completely new FDA-approved form of treatment for cancer. It uses "Tumor Treating Fields" (TTF) that are delivered to the tumor by applying electrodes on the skin. No needles, no pills. The TTFs can kill some of the dividing cells and has no apparent effect on cells that are not dividing. (In the brain, most of the dividing cells are tumor cells).
- What type of tumors can it be used for?
Optune™ is FDA approved for the treatment of adult patients (age 22 years and up) with glioblastoma tumors that have recurred following initial chemotherapy. The device is intended as a monotherapy after maximal surgery and radiation and as an alternative to additional medical therapy. It is in trials for people with newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme in combination with the standard treatments as well as for patients with lung cancer and breast cancer.
- Is Optune™ readily available?
Optune™ is approved in the United States by the FDA; however, since it is a completely new type of treatment, the health care professionals need training on how to best use it. We have a list of the doctors certified to use the device! They are now able to dispense the device! It is also available in Europe and Israel.
- What kind of side effects can I expect?
In the patients treated so far, there were no significant side effects from the device. No nausea, No problems with blood counts, No pain from the device. Some patients had an irritation on the skin from the electrodes.
- Does it work on glioblastomas? In the brain tumor world, "work" is a relative term. In my own opinion, it is not a miracle cure, but it is another tool in our toolbox to fight this disease. Look at the scientific articles on the Novocure device to get details on the trials. There were some small trials that showed remarkable results: at last report in December 2011, two of the original 10 recurrent GBM patients from the pilot trial are alive and well over 7 years after enrolling in the study.
Four of the original 10 newly diagnosed GBM patients from the pilot trial are alive and well, 4 to 6 years after enrolling in the study.
However, the recent large trial for patients with recurrent glioblastoma had mixed results: the device by itself was compared to the best of available therapy and although the people in the Novocure monotherapy group did as well as or better than the best of available treatments group , the overall survivals of both the best of standard care as well as the Novocure groups was disappointing. This may have been due to the patient population - this trial allowed patients with a very short life expectancy and many were too far progressed for anything to help. This trial showed that the device is safe to use, and that it is at least as good as anything else we have available - with less side effects and better quality of life.
The most recent report showed impressive results on a large number (457) patients who used the Novocure system for recurrent GBM.
- Is it considered an alternative treatment? No. Optune™ is a new form of standard treatment. It has been approved by the FDA to treat brain tumors and has extensive research behind it. There are devices in the alternative medicine world that may sound similar - those are considered alternative medicine and they have not been shown to help at all.
- Will my insurance cover it? Possibly. Optune™ is FDA approved for recurrent glioblastomas, so there is no reason for the insurance companies to deny it if it is used for recurrent glioblastomas, but since it is so new they may try to deny it at first. The Novocure company has an insurance specialist (Justin Kelly at 855-281-9301) who can help you file the claim and appeal if they get rejected. Call them to ask if others with your type of insurance has had any problems. We (The Musella Foundation) have a new copayment assistance program that may be able to help with your out of pocket expenses in some circumstances. Visit our patient copayment assistance program website for details!
- Does it work right away? The short answer: No. It does slow down the tumor growth right away, but tests show the tumor may appear to grow in size for at least a month before it starts to level off then start to shrink. For the long answer, first click HERE for the response from the scientists at Novocure to this question, then click HERE for the article referred to in that letter - which shows the results of animal tests.
Click on the links below for more information on Optune!
Disclosure: the Novocure company is a sponsor of our organization!