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Karen Ritter, RN BSN
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Important Facts About Tumor Treating Fields for Mesothelioma
- The FDA approved a tumor treating fields device, the NovoTTF-100L System, in May 2019. It is now called Optune Lua.
- The new mesothelioma treatment sends electric waves through the body, affecting cell growth and division.
- The median survival time is 18.2 months for Optune Lua, and most patients respond positively. It's also safe to use, with few side effects.
- More than 110 hospitals offer the therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma, specifically unresectable cases.
FDA Approval of Optune Lua for Pleural Mesothelioma
In May 2019, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Optune Lua as a Humanitarian Use Device for treating pleural mesothelioma. The approval was the first approved treatment for pleural mesothelioma in 15 years.
Humanitarian use devices are therapies approved to treat conditions that affect fewer than 8,000 people in the United States each year. Mesothelioma affects between 2,500 and 3,000 each year.
Roughly 34% out of the 8,000 or less cases required are affected by mesothelioma. Allowing the use of these devices.
The FDA limited use of Optune Lua to specific cases meeting the following criteria:
- Locally advanced or metastatic disease
- Surgery isn’t an option
- The device is paired with standard pleural mesothelioma chemotherapy (pemetrexed and cisplatin)
In September 2019, the West Cancer Center (Germantown, Tennessee) became the first institution to prescribe a pleural mesothelioma patient with Optune Lua.
Brand Name Change to Optune Lua
NovoTTF-100L for pleural mesothelioma received a name change in March of 2020. Novocure rebranded the device as Optune Lua.
Novocure’s chief commercial officer, Pritesh Shah, explained the reason for the name change. He said Optune Lua is “easy to pronounce and remember,” which should help patients and caregivers ask about it by name.
What Are Tumor Treating Fields?
Tumor treating fields, called “TTFields” for short, are low-intensity electric fields delivered from a machine or device. These fields, or currents, are delivered at an intermediate frequency. They are “alternating fields,” which mean they periodically reverse direction.
The website Clinical Cancer Research called tumor treating fields the “fourth modality” of cancer treatment. The first three are the standard approaches for pleural mesothelioma:
How Do Tumor Treating Fields Stop Tumors?
Tumor treating fields disrupt cell division, which is the process mesothelioma cells use to duplicate and spread in your body. Mesothelial cells line each side of your pleura, which is the thin lining covering your lungs. This membrane is made up of two cell walls, called the parietal pleura and visceral pleura. Either cell wall is where pleural mesothelioma forms.
Mesothelial cells turn cancerous when sharp asbestos fibers irritate them. They mutate, duplicate and outlive their normal cell life cycle, which leads to an overabundance of diseased cells proliferating in the body.
By preventing mesothelioma cells from dividing, tumor treating fields halt the spread of this cancer. This result stagnates mesothelioma’s growth and prevents tumors from invading the tissue of vital organs.
“Basically, these fields disrupt the normal division process of cells and have the potential to inhibit the growth of tumors and even reverse their progression,” said Dr. Uri Weinberg, the Novocure vice president of clinical development. “Hopefully, this leads to extended survival of patients.”
What Is Optune Lua?
Optune Lua utilizes “tumor treating fields” to attack tumors in the chest cavity, which is where pleural mesothelioma forms. The device is manufactured by Novocure, which is an oncology company that creates tumor treating fields devices for cancer treatment. The device is the company’s first for any type of mesothelioma.
“NovoCure has been working on tumor treating fields for close to the past 20 years now,” said Dr. Uri Weinberg, who heads the company’s development and research.
How the Optune Lua Work for Mesothelioma
Optune Lua delivers tumor treating fields from four transducer arrays placed on your chest above the affected lung. These arrays are connected to “a small, lightweight” device, as Dr. Weinberg describes, that operates by battery or power outlet connection.
Patients receive the therapy for approximately 18 hours a day. You can wear this device at any time of the day, or night, and it should not impede your ability to go about your usual routine. You can even sleep with it running.
Front Placement for Optune Lua
Back Placement for Optune Lua
Benefits of Optune Lua for Pleural Mesothelioma
One of the main benefits of tumor treating fields is the little-to-no downside of this therapy. Tumor treating fields will not damage healthy tissue like other pleural mesothelioma treatment options. Tumor treating fields also don’t risk intraoperative complications.
“Most patients do not feel anything unusual while receiving their therapy,” Dr. Weinberg said to Mesothelioma Guide. “This is one of the major assets of the therapy: allowing patients to maintain their quality of life and allowing patients to function while receiving the therapy without disruption of their day-to-day activities.”
Other advantages of tumor treating fields, and Optune Lua in particular, include:
- Ability to wear the device during normal daily activities, such as working or spending time with family
- Noninvasive, nearly unnoticeable device and electrical currents
- Ability to wear the device and receive treatment while sleeping
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Which Hospitals Offer Tumor Treating Fields for Mesothelioma?
As of November 2022, Novocure’s tumor treating fields device is available at medical centers in more than 35 U.S. states. More than 100 hospitals offer the therapy for unresectable malignant mesothelioma cases.
The hospitals most recently adding Optune Lua to their offerings are:
- Charleston Oncology
(Charleston, South Carolina)
- GenesisCare Oncology
- Parkview Cancer Institute
(Fort Wayne, Indiana)
- Precision Radiation Oncology
- University of Louisville Health James Graham Brown Cancer Center
- Virginia Cancer Institute
The states with hospitals offering the treatment are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Some of the Mesothelioma Centers of Excellence, top-ranked medical institutions, offering Optune Lua are:
- Baylor St Luke’s Medical Center
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Moffitt Cancer Center
- Swedish Cancer Institute
- New York Proton Center
(New York City)
- Roswell Park Cancer Center(Buffalo, New York)
- University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center(Miami, Florida)
You can easily access tumor treating fields for pleural mesothelioma. Our staff can recommend one of the top cancer centers to you — and will prioritize finding one that offers the Optune Lua device.
If you’d like to see an up-to-date list of all treatment centers offering Optune Lua for pleural mesothelioma, visit the Optune Lua website to view the interactive map showing the centers.
Survival From Tumor Treating Fields
Tumor treating fields can significantly improve your pleural mesothelioma prognosis. The Optune Lua device received FDA approval due to its excellent survival results in the phase 2 STELLAR clinical trial. The study included 80 participants, all of whom received chemotherapy in addition to wearing the device.
Mesothelioma survival rates from the trial show the utility of tumor treating fields. The median survival time was 18.2 months, which is better than most patients who fit the criteria for the device.
The therapy is explicitly for patients who have a locally advanced or metastatic pleural mesothelioma — and who cannot undergo surgery. This most describes a stage 3 or stage 4 disease, which has a survival time of between a few months to a little more than one year.
Epithelioid mesothelioma patients averaged a survival time of close to 21 months. This is an improvement from the general survival time of 19 months.
Sarcomatoid and biphasic patients combined for an average survival length of around 12 months. This result also was an improvement, of a couple months, compared to overall mesothelioma survival times.
Other noteworthy survival stats and disease-response data regarding tumor treating fields for pleural mesothelioma include:
- 62% one-year survival rate (the general one-year survival rate is 40%)
- 97% disease control rate, meaning the cancer did not grow and spread further
- 57% stable disease, meaning the treatment stalled at its current size
- 40% partial response, meaning the therapy caused the disease to shrink slightly in size
We can provide you more information on other life-extending mesothelioma treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and emerging therapies. Request our free Guide to Mesothelioma book for more medical tips, insight and survival times from our expert staff.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tumor Treating Fields for Mesothelioma
How do tumor treating fields work?
Tumor treating fields send low-intensity electric frequencies into the tumor site. These waves, or tumor treating fields, disrupt cell division and can cause cancerous cells to die before replicating. This process slows the spread of mesothelioma and can extend patients’ lives by multiple months or years.
What was the first tumor treating fields device approved for mesothelioma?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a tumor treating fields device in May 2019. It received approval after outperforming chemotherapy in mesothelioma clinical trials. The device was originally called NovoTTF-100L System. It’s now called Optune Lua. The device is only for cases where surgery is not an option for patients, and it must be used in cohesion with chemotherapy.
What are the survival times for Optune Lua for mesothelioma?
The median mesothelioma survival time in the most recent clinical trial was 18 months, which is an improvement from chemotherapy. Epithelioid patients survived for an average of 21 months. The device also led to a 62% one-year survival rate, 97% disease control rate and 57% stable disease rate.
Where can I get Optune Lua for my mesothelioma?
The tumor treating fields device is available in more than 110 hospitals covering more than half the country. Major cancer centers, such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, offer the treatment. Our patient advocates can help you find a hospital with this device.
Sources & Author
- Tumor-Treating Fields: A Fourth Modality in Cancer Treatment. Clinical Cancer Research. Retrieved from: https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/24/2/266. Accessed: 06/12/2020.
- West is first center in the country to offer the 1st FDA-approved Mesothelioma treatment in more than 15 years. West Cancer Center and Research Institute. Retrieved from: https://westcancercenter.org/west-is-1st-center-in-the-country-to-offer-the-1st-fda-approved-mesothelioma-treatment-in-more-than-15-years/. Accessed: 06/12/2020.
- Humanitarian Use Device (HUD) Designations. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/humanitarian-use-device-hud-designations. Accessed: 06/12/2020.
- FDA Approves the NovoTTF-100L™ System in Combination with Chemotherapy for the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Novocure. Retrieved from: https://www.novocure.com/fda-approves-the-novottf-100ltm-system-in-combination-with-chemotherapy-for-the-treatment-of-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma/. Accessed: 06/12/2020.
- Novocure Announces Optune Lua as the Brand Name for the NovoTTF-100L System. Novocure. Retrieved from: https://www.novocure.com/novocure-announces-optune-lua-as-the-brand-name-for-the-novottf-100l-system/. Accessed: 06/12/2020.
- Presentation, initial evaluation, and prognosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma. UpToDate. Retrieved from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/presentation-initial-evaluation-and-prognosis-of-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma. Accessed: 03/19/19.
- Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: a review. Annals of Translational Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5497105/. Accessed: 06/10/2020.
- Life Expectancy in Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma. U.S. National Library of Medicine via the Annals of Thoracic Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292397/. Accessed: 03/19/19.
- Certified treatment centers are available to get you started on Optune Lua. Optune Lua. Retrieved from: https://optunelua.com/find-a-treatment-center. Accessed: 07/08/2020.
- Treatment centers in the United States. Optune Lua. Retrieved from: https://www.optunelua.com/treatment-center-locator. Accessed: 11/30/2022.