Novocure Cap Uses Electromagnetic Field To Curb Tumor Growth

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A glimmer of hope has emerged for patients with the most common form of brain cancer.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Wednesday evening, a new magnetic cap is helping people diagnosed with glioblastoma — the deadliest form of brain cancer.

Doug Lawrence, 70, hopes the new device attacks the cancer cells in his brain. He was recently diagnosed with glioblastoma, and given just months to live.

So Lawrence’s children went online and discovered an experimental treatment at the University of Southern California Norris Cancer Hospital.

The Novocure cap contains electrodes that create a magnetic field around the brain. Cancer cells are deadly because they divide out of control, but electromagnetic fields at just the right strength and frequency can disrupt that process so the cells cannot divide properly.

Cells divide infrequently in a normal brain, and thus, brain cells are unharmed while the dividing cancer cells die off.

“For cancer cells, that’s the very important, because they have to divide in order to grow,” said USC neurologist Dr. Thomas Chen.

Lawrence carries a portable power source in a backpack, and must wear the cap around the clock. The device must be directly on the scalp, so patients must keep their heads shaved.

About 250 newly-diagnosed brain cancer patients have tested the device in combination with a cancer drug. The treatment spares patients the side effects of chemotherapy, but in the end, the cap extends a patient’s life a few months.

“I guess it all boils down to your wife, your kids, and God,” Lawrence said.

The cap is used in addition to standard chemotherapy and radiation.

So far, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved the device for patients who have recurrent cases of glioblastoma. While it is not a cure, it improves quality of life, and has few side effects other than a warm feeling on the scalp.

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