A phase II clinical trial, occurring in different cancer institutes throughout Europe, is testing a novel malignant pleural mesothelioma cancer treatment involving the use of Tumor Treating Fields or TTFields. TTFields are low-intensity, intermediate frequency electric fields that work to disrupt cancer cell growth and development by interacting with key molecules and proteins involved in the cell division process.
The TTFields therapy targets specific solid tumors and tumor cells. As the electrical fields enter the cancerous cells, the fields can attract and repel specific cell proteins that can interrupt dividing cells growth and stop tumor growth. Unlike other treatments used to kill cancer cells, like chemotherapy, there are minimal side effects of this novel treatment. Most patients have only experienced mild skin irritation in previous clinical trials for other conditions, like brain tumors.
This new study consisted of 82 pleural mesothelioma patients. All of the patients were treated with the standard chemotherapy for mesothelioma, pemetrexed and cisplatin or carboplatin. Along with the chemotherapy, patients would undergo continuous treatment with the TTField medical device, NovoTTF-100L from NovoCure. For this treatment, the patients would wear four electrically insulated electrode arrays on the thorax. The chemotherapy would also be applied in a standard 21-day cycle.
Though the final data is not yet available for overall survival, an interim analysis of half of the patients showed a one-year survival rate of nearly 80%. Patients experienced an average survival of 7.3 months before the disease began to progress and spread again.
The average one-year survival rate for most pleural mesothelioma patients is about 73%, but survival drops drastically by 3 and 5 years because of the cancer’s aggressive nature. However, in the study’s control group, researchers found a one-year survival rate of only around 50% with 5.7 months progression-free survival, as well as improved quality of life.
Even compared to a survival rate of 73%, the study saw a marked improvement with this novel treatment that could potentially be applied further to continue improving life expectancy. This TTField treatment has also already shown promise in a number of other clinical trials for cancer patients with non-small cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, recurrent glioblastoma, and metastatic brain cancer. The researchers think TTFields therapy can be a vital addition to the multimodal treatment of mesothelioma to improve the standards of care.
The treatment is pending approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Though it’s normally a lengthy process, researchers from the study are seeking accelerated approval of the novel cancer therapy because of the positive results and hope to see the treatment available in cancer centers around the world by 2019.