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Electronic cap prolongs survival from brain tumour

Applying electricity to the brain by wearing a special cap boosts survival rates for people with an aggressive type of brain tumour, a clinical trial shows

Electronic_Cap_03©Novocure
An electronic cap. Picture: NovoCure

Treatment using an electronic cap boosts survival rates for people with an aggressive type of brain tumour, a clinical trial shows.

The treatment works by applying low frequency electricity to the brain through insulated electrodes that are placed on the patient’s shaved scalp using a cap.

These doses of electricity, called tumour-treating fields, interfere with the molecular mechanism in cancer cells that helps them divide.

The study, by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, covered 695 patients with glioblastoma who had undergone surgery to remove a tumour and radiotherapy.

Cap and drug

Two thirds of patients received the electronic cap treatment as well as the chemotherapy drug temozolomide. The remainder had only the drug.

Overall survival in patients who had the drug and the electronic therapy was 20.9 months on average, compared with 16 months for those having chemotherapy alone.

The average amount of time in which the cancer did not worsen was 6.7 months for patients who had the drug and the electronic cap. It was four months for patients who just took the drug.

Patients who received the electronic treatment wore the device on their head for around 18 hours a day for five days over a 28-day period. This was repeated between six and 12 times.


Stupp R et al (2017) Effect of Tumor-Treating Fields Plus Maintenance Temozolomide vs Maintenance Temozolomide Alone on Survival in Patients With Glioblastoma A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.18718

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