For the first time in 15 years, there is a new treatment option for mesothelioma patients. The FDA recently approved the NovoTTF— a device that can disrupt cancer cells and stop them from dividing — for use in mesothelioma treatment.
Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to diagnose and treat for many reasons:
- It's rare.
- It shares symptoms with other illnesses.
- There is a long period between the initial exposure and the growth of the cancer.
Because it's challenging to diagnose and treat this disease, researchers and doctors have struggled to find new and effective treatment options.
The last time the FDA approved a new treatment for mesothelioma was 15 years ago when pemetrexed (brand name Alimta®) was accepted as a standard chemotherapy drug.
For veterans, developing mesothelioma after serving their country is a disheartening diagnosis. This is especially true if a veteran can't receive surgery, which is the most effective treatment for this disease.
With the NovoTFF, there is revived hope for veterans with limited treatment options. The NovoTTF can be used to treat late-stage mesothelioma from home since it is portable and lightweight.
Medical Device Slows Mesothelioma Progress
The NovoTTF system is a small wearable device that creates electrical fields — also called tumor treatment fields (TTF) — in the patient's chest.
These electrical fields, which are tuned to specific frequencies, stops cancer cells from dividing and may even kill them. This can slow the cancer's progression.
Patients treated with NovoTTF will have small insulated ceramic discs glued to their chest and back. The discs, which look and function like electrocardiogram (ECG) stickers, are attached to a rechargeable battery worn by the patient.
Patients wear the NovoTTF for 18 hours every day, making the device’s portability very convenient. The device can also be plugged into a power source if the patient is stationary.
This device is designed to work with the standard chemotherapy treatments for mesothelioma. Patients wear the device until their disease begins to progress again, which, in the latest trial, happened an average of 7.5 months after the treatment started.
The NovoTTF is for mesothelioma patients with tumors that cannot be surgically removed. However, patients can't use this device if they are sensitive to the gels that stick the discs to their skin, or they use a pacemaker.
First Approved Treatment Since Alimta Drug Combo
This is the first FDA-approved mesothelioma treatment since Alimta (pemetrexed) and cisplatin were approved as combination chemotherapy drugs in 2004.
Because the NovoTTF system was approved under the Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE), the researchers did not have to prove the device's effectiveness to the standard expected of other treatment options.
The results of the latest NovoTTF clinical trial produced an 18-month overall survival rate for patients who were also receiving chemotherapy.
For patients with the epithelioid cell type, the survival rate was 21 months. For non-epithelioid patients, it was 12 months. Furthermore, 62% of patients were still alive after one year of treatment, compared to the average mesothelioma survival rate of 6-12 months for most patients.
New Device Can Enhance Multimodal Care
The NovoTFF can improve doctors' abilities to provide multimodal care. Multimodal care combines different treatment options to fit each patient's unique needs.
Multimodal care that combines several therapies is the best way to treat mesothelioma because it attacks the disease from many different fronts.
Even though one of the standard treatment options is surgery, not every patient is eligible for an operation. One reason they may not be able to have the procedure is that they are not physically fit enough to survive it.
In the past, weaker patients would receive palliative care — non-aggressive therapies that improve a patient’s comfort. Now, these patients can use the NovoTTF and stop their tumors from growing.
Veterans Can Access New and Emerging Mesothelioma Therapies
The FDA approval of the NovoTFF is excellent news for veterans with mesothelioma. They now have access to another form treatment in addition to the existing treatments. Veterans can also access clinical trials at cancer centers and VA hospitals across the country.
If you’re a U.S. military veteran with mesothelioma, contact the Mesothelioma Veterans Center today. Our team can review your claim and help eligible veterans get VA benefits and other legal compensation to pay for life-extending treatments.