A Basic Understanding of NovoTTF-100L: A New Mesothelioma Treatment
Nicole Winch | September 2, 2020
Back in May 2019, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new treatment for mesothelioma patients. This approval was the first for any type of mesothelioma in more than 15 years.
Since its release, the device has grown exponentially in the mesothelioma community and has become a standard of care for victims of this rare cancer.
Treatment for mesothelioma is very limited. Before NovoTTF-100L, people who were unable or unwilling to have their cancer removed via surgery could only be treated with chemotherapy or radiation.
That description applies to a majority of people with this cancer. Surgery is an effective treatment for pleural mesothelioma patients, however, not all patients may qualify. Some patients could benefit from immunotherapy — via clinical trials — but that group is a minority of the people with this cancer.
NovoTTF-100L Rebranded to Optune Lua
Within the past year, it’s creator and manufacturer, Novocure, has rebranded the treatment’s name to “Optune Lua.” The Optune Lua brand was created so that patients, caregivers and physicians could easily remember and pronounce the treatment by name.
A name change isn’t the only sign of growth. Impressively, Optune Lua is available to patients at 42 hospitals in 20 states across the country. Those numbers continue to grow each month, with high-profile cancer centers such as Baylor St. Luke’s (Houston) and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (Los Angeles) on the list.
Optune Lua’s continuous growth in the past 14 months shows just how excited patients and doctors were for the introduction of a new mesothelioma treatment option.
While chemotherapy has some undesirable side effects, NovoTTF-100L may help improve a patient’s prognosis without many adverse reactions. This is a major breakthrough for asbestos victims in the United States.
So … What is NovoTTF-100L?
The NovoTTF-100L System is a wearable device used to treat patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This therapy is only approved to be used:
- In conjunction with the standard two-drug chemotherapy protocol (cisplatin and pemetrexed)
- In patients where surgery is not an option
This tumor treating fields device was designed so that patients could use it in the comfort of their home, even while doing normal day-to-day activities. The patient can even use it while sleeping. The treatment consists of the device and battery, a carrying bag, and transducer rays.
Patients should only be prescribed NovoTTF-100L by a specialist or physician who has undergone training to use the device. A radiation oncologist at a hospital with access to the device will also be able to train you or your caregiver on how to properly use and monitor the machine.
How Does NovoTTF-100L Work?
NovoTTF-100L is placed on the patient’s body specific to their tumor location and body size. A low-intensity electric current, or tumor treating fields, is sent into the disease location to slow or stop cancer cells from dividing. Sometimes these cells may even be destroyed by the tumor treating fields.
The electrical waves are delivered through adhesive patches called transducer rays, which are placed on the upper body by your doctor. Patients wear the device for 18 hours a day and find it very easy to continue their normal routine.
According to the FDA, there are times when NovoTTF-100L should not be used. These apply to patients who have:
- An implanted electronic device (pacemaker or automatic defibrillator)
- A sensitivity to conductive hydrogels (similar to those used on EKGs)
Some patients may experience side effects, such as skin irritation, a rash, small blisters or sores where the transducer rays are placed. However, these complications are temporary and mild. Previous results from the STELLAR clinical trial concluded that most skin irritations went away after the device was removed from the patient.
How Does NovoTTF-100L Help Survival Rates?
According to a clinical trial with 80 patients, the median survival rate when using NovoTTF-100L with chemotherapy was about 18.2 months. Approximately 97% of patients had their mesothelioma shrink or stop growing. The trial also resulted in around 62% of patients surviving for one year, while 42% survived for two years.
These survival rates are much better than for chemotherapy on its own. Around 19% of pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo chemotherapy alone survive for two years.
While the NovoTTF-100L is not a cure for mesothelioma, many patients are seeing some improvement with their prognosis and life expectancy.