What is Optune™? Optune™, Formerly known as The Novocure TTF-100A system, is a completely new FDA-approved form of treatment for cancer. It uses "Tumor Treating Fields" (TTF) that are delivered to the tumor by applying electrodes on the skin. No needles, no pills. The TTFs can kill some of the dividing cells and has no apparent effect on cells that are not dividing. (In the brain, most of the dividing cells are tumor cells).
What type of tumors can it be used for? Optune is a wearable, portable, FDA-approved device indicated to treat a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in adult patients 22 years of age or older, newly diagnosed or recurrent.
It is also approved for Mesolthelioma and is being tested for other cancer types.
Is Optune™ readily available? Optune™ is FDA approved in the United States and is now readily availablle!
What kind of side effects can I expect? In the patients treated so far, there were no significant side effects from the device. No nausea, No problems with blood counts, No pain from the device. Some patients had an irritation on the skin from the electrodes. Read this article for ways to prevent or treat the most common skin issues!
Does it work on glioblastomas? In the brain tumor world, "work" is a relative term. In my own opinion, it is not a miracle cure, but it is another tool in our toolbox to fight this disease. Look at the scientific articles on the Novocure device to get details on the trials. There is a dose response curve where if you use the treatment over 90% of the time, the results are very exciting. See this article, which shows that the subgroup of Optune™ users in the trial that used the treatment over 90% of the time had a 29.3% chance of being alive in 5 years compared to the control group of best of standard of care and clinical trials, which only had a 4.5% chance at a 5 year survival. Not good enough but a huge improvement.
Is it considered an alternative treatment? No. Optune™ is a new form of standard treatment. It has been approved by the FDA to treat brain tumors and has extensive research behind it. There are very old devices in the alternative medicine world that may sound similar - those are considered alternative medicine and they have not been tested in clinical trials. There is work on similiar types of devices to use tumor treating fields but they are not yet FDA approved.
Will my insurance cover it? Possibly. Optune™ is FDA approved, so there is no reason for the insurance companies to deny it. Medicare has approved it but only for use in specific conditions. Talk to your doctor about it. We are trying to fight those restrictions but right now you need to start within 7 weeks of the end of radiation or Medicare will deny it. See this article for details but ask your doctor about it. The problem with this restriction is that you can no longer consider entering a clinical trial then try Optune™ if the trial fails. Now you have to decide between a trial and Optune™ (unless the trial allows the use of Optune™). The Novocure company has people who can help you appeal if you get rejected. Call them to ask if others with your type of insurance has had any problems. We (The Musella Foundation) have a new copayment assistance program that may be able to help with your out of pocket expenses in some circumstances. Visit our patient copayment assistance program website for details!
Does it work right away? The short answer: No. It does slow down the tumor growth right away, but tests show the tumor may appear to grow in size for at least a month before it starts to level off then start to shrink. For the long answer, first click HERE for the response from the scientists at Novocure to this question, then click HERE for the article referred to in that letter - which shows the results of animal tests.
Click on the links below for more information on Optune™.