Miami Cancer Institute Pioneers ‘Tumor Treating Fields’ to Fight Deadly Cancers

Miami Cancer Institute has begun implementing an innovative, cancer-fighting wearable device known as Tumor Treating Fields, or TTFields, for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The Institute is just one of three centers nationwide to receive approval to administer the treatment.

Malignantpleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare but aggressive form of cancer that involvesthe membrane covering the lungs. It is most commonly a result of inhalingasbestos. It is the first new treatment approved for mesothelioma by the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in more than 15 years and it is administeredin combination with chemotherapy.

The noninvasive TTFields device disrupts cancer cell division through low-voltage electric fields. TTField therapy uses small transducers that are attached to the torso, in the case of mesothelioma patients, with adhesive bandages. The transducers are connected to wires, which are plugged into a battery. The batteries fit into a bag that the person carries with them. The patient takes the device home and wears it for at least 18 hours a day.

(Watch now: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Rupesh Kotecha, M.D., radiation oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute about the innovative new device that targets tumor cells in certain patients with rare and aggressive cancers. Video by George Carvalho.)

“TTFfields actually provide alternating electrical energy that’s guided or targetedto the area in the lungs where the disease exists,” said RupeshKotecha, M.D., radiation oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute.“They’re placed on the patient in a very specific position those positionsmay differ between patients based on the location of the disease, or even basedon the anatomy of the patient.”

The MiamiCancer Institute has joined the West Cancer Center in Memphis, Tennessee, andthe Oregon Health & Sciences University as the first three centers toreceive approval for its use with pleural mesothelioma.

The FDAfirst approved the use of TTFields in 2015 for glioblastoma, an aggressive formof brain cancer. The treatment is also being studied to target other diseases,including lung, pancreatic and ovarian cancers. Dr. Kotecha has experienceusing TTFields at the Miami Cancer Institute to treat glioblastoma.

The firstpatient recently treated with TTFields for malignant pleural mesothelioma is an80-year-old male.

“Ourfirst patient is a retired gentleman who is still very active and wanted tomaintain his activity for as long as he can, given that chemotherapy is onlygiven for a certain number of cycles,” explains Dr. Kotecha. “He waslooking for a treatment that could potentially provide some more durability indisease control.”

Before acancer cell replicates itself, its proteins form chains that pull apart thecopies of genetic matter in the cell’s nucleus. The TTFields device works todisrupt this process.

The FDAapproval for treating mesothelioma patients with TTFields followed a clinicaltrial across Europe referred to as STELLAR. The TTFields device, officiallycalled the NovoTTF-100L System, was developed by Novocure, a global companybased in the United Kingdom.

The study’sresults included one- and two-year survival rates of 62.2 percent and 41.9percent, respectively. The median overall survival of the 80 patients in thetrial was 18.2 months. Overall, the one-year survival rate for pleuralmesothelioma is about 40 percent.

“We’re ableto see patients from all over the country for this type of treatment,” says Dr.Kotecha. “TTF treatments will be available at very few centers, including MiamiCancer Institute. We specialize in taking care of patients who have verycomplicated diagnoses or even very rare diagnoses.”

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