TT Fields (Tumor Treating Fields) for Brain Tumors
- TT fields are mild electrical fields that pulse through the skin of the scalp and interrupt cancer cells’ ability to divide.
- This “field of interruption” may slow down a tumor’s growth and its ability to spread.
- In 2011 the FDA approved a tumor-treating fields device for the treatment of certain tumors including glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive brain tumor.
- In one study, patients who had recurrent GBM and who underwent TT fields treatment saw improvement in survival comparable to that of a second round of chemotherapy.
- The advantage to patients is that TT fields therapy does not cause side effects like pain, nausea, fatigue or diarrhea, all of which are typical of chemotherapy and radiation.
TT Fields Treatment
The TT fields treatment device is portable and may help people treat their cancer while continuing their normal activities.
People undergoing TT fields therapy use small transducers that are attached to their head with adhesive bandages. Hair must be shaved in order to use the device.
The transducers are connected to wires, which are plugged into a battery that is about the size of a book. The batteries fit into a bag that the person carries with them, either in a backpack, across the body, or over the shoulder like a messenger bag.
The system comes with multiple batteries and a charging station. The user is alerted when batteries need to be changed.
The therapy is continual, but people can unplug the device for short times to shower.
How TT Fields Work
The TT fields act upon rapidly-dividing cells of cancerous tumors without affecting normal cells.
TT fields act upon certain highly charged proteins in the cells. These proteins are essential to the process of cell division, which helps tumors grow and spread.
When a cancer cell is ready to create a copy of itself, the proteins form chains that pull apart the copies of genetic matter in the cell’s nucleus. TT fields seem to disrupt this process.
When the cancer cells are prevented from dividing normally by the TT fields, they self-destruct. Over the course of weeks or months, more tumor cells die and the tumor shrinks.
“Brain Matters” Podcast 3: Electrical Fields and Brain Tumors
Can a helmet using electrical fields improve survival from some brain tumors? Jon Weingart, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, explains the strategy.