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Apr 04, 2017 09:47 AM EDT

Northwestern University-Led Team Creates Device That Uses Electricity To Treat Cancer

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Northwestern University scientists were able to create a device that uses electric fields to treat cancer. The new tool improved survival for the first time in over a decade for patients with deadly brain tumors.

The results came after the scientists conducted a large study. There are several doctors who are skeptical of the therapy, which is called tumor treating fields. It is not a cure and is very expensive since it is priced at $21,000 a month.

MedicalXpress reported that more than twice as many patients were able to survive five years after going through the therapy along with the usual chemotherapy. This is compared to the patients who only got chemo, with just 5 percent survival rate while the former got 13 percent.

Dr. Roger Stupp, brain tumor expert from Northwestern University in Chicago, said that it's an unconventional way of treating cancer. Several doctors still do not understand the method or think that it can help.

Dr. Stupp led the company-sponsored study while being at University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland. The results were announced at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Washington on Sunday.

The device is named Optune and developed by Novocure. It is available in the U.S., Germany, Switzerland and Japan for adults who suffer with an aggressive cancer called glioblastoma multiforme. It is used with chemo after surgery and radiation to keep the tumors from recurring.

Patients are required to cover their shaved scalp with strips of electrodes connected by wires to a small generator inside a bag. Afterwards, they are able to go about their usual routine.

According to CBS Chicago, patients need to use the device for at least 18 hours a day. They only feel mild heat, though, not electric current or radiation.

It is said to work by creating low intensity, alternating electric fields that disrupt cell division. This confuses the way that the chromosomes line up, resulting to the death of the cancer cells.

© 2017 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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