Using electricity to treat aggressive brain tumor


Williamsport patient credits Optune with his progress

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Wednesday marked a first in bringing attention to the most aggressive form of brain cancer. It’s the inaugural Glioblastoma Awareness Day. People diagnosed with this brain tumor are often given a life expectancy prognosis that’s measured in months, not years.

That’s the case of a Williamsport man who worried about his own prognosis. But as Eyewitness News Healthbeat reporter Mark Hiller explains, that man is defying the odds with the help of electricity.

61-year-old Scott Rider wears what he considers a lifesaver on the top of his head. “I try to wear it constantly. I think if I’m not wearing it then it’s not helping,” Mr. Rider said. The device is called Optune: a wearable therapy Mr. Rider started using after his April 2017 brain surgery and the chemotherapy and radiation that followed.

A doctor told Mr. Rider he had 18 to 24 months to live at the time of his glioblastoma diagnosis. But now 27 months post-surgery Mr. Rider said, “This has extended life expectancy by months if not years by simply wearing the device.”

Optune consists of four patches of electrodes attached to a patient’s shaved scalp. It creates low-intensity, wave-like electric fields called tumor treating fields delivered by transducer arrays to where the glioblastoma tumor is located. “And these arrays produce a beam, pulse if you will back and forth. Constantly,” Mr. Rider said.

The electrical fields disrupt cancer cells which try to divide. Mr. Rider has been going every other month for MRI’s to monitor the tumor. He said, “Ideally it would be shrinking but it’s not growing and that’s the biggie. It’s not growing. It’s stable.”

While Mr. Rider no longer works, he manages to stay active and enjoy some of his favorite activities. “I still downhill ski. I have showed up at the hockey rink and just played around.” He also gets to play with his grandson and take each day as it comes. Mr. Rider hopes the success he’s experienced with Optune gives others hope. “A grim diagnosis such as a malignant brain tumor can be, I don’t think overcome, but it can be definitely lived with in a positive manner.”

Optune is FDA approved and covered by many insurances. Its maker, Novocure, has used the device in clinical trials to treat non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma.

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