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New brain cancer treatment closer to reality

KIRO Radio

Brain cancer often strikes suddenly, and it usually shows no mercy.

For people diagnosed with Glioblastoma, the odds are not good. Life expectancy for this deadliest form of brain cancer is about a year, but that might change if the Food and Drug Administration approves a new treatment.

It would be the first non-chemical treatment for brain cancer. That would mean no radiation and no chemotherapy. It's undergoing clinical testing at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle.

Doctor John Henson says the treatment consists of bombarding the tumors with focused electricity. Patients wear hats with electrodes inside that have shown signs of preventing cancer cells from dividing.

"If we can inhibit cell division within the tumor, then that will cause the tumor to stop growing or perhaps even make it shrink," he said.

Dellann Elliott went before a Food and Drug Administration panel last week asking that this new treatment be approved.

Glioblastoma took her husband Chris nine years ago, and she's been fighting ever since for increased funding for research and new and better treatments.

"I feel like I just jumped across the Grand Canyon for brain tumor patients," she said after that panel approved the treatment and sent it to the FDA for the final OK.

"There have only been three approved chemo's in the last 35 years for brain cancer," Elliott said. "When you look at that and see a new option that is completely safe and has a higher quality of life versus chemo, you know my message to the FDA panel was 'Why would you not approve this?'"

Elliott said it doesn't have the side effects and sickness associated with the current treatments for brain cancer. The only thing patients complain of, she said, is that their heads get warm.

Dr. Henson is excited to potentially have another option for treating patients because there are so few choices.

"After one episode of progressive disease, we run out of effective treatment options," he said. "This is a completely new angle of attack, if you will, on the tumor." It might make living with Glioblastoma manageable or even increase the odds or length of survival.

The FDA is expected to announce its decision on this new brain cancer treatment in a few months.


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