The NovoTTF-100L is a wearable device that was approved by the FDA in 2019 to help treat mesothelioma. Specifically, the device is used to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is often in the lining of the lungs. The device is not used on its own, but instead is combined with the standard chemotherapy regimens used in mesothelioma. The NovoTTF-100L device was found to extend survival in people suffering from mesothelioma. The best benefit on survival was found in people with the epithelioid form of the disease.
The NovoTTF-100L device is portable and is prescribed by a doctor. The manufacturer provides training to the doctor or their medical staff, who will then train the patient how to use the NovoTTF-100L. The device can then be taken home and used in the privacy of the person’s own residence. Although any medical issues should be referred to the doctor, any technical problems with the device can be referred to the manufacturer’s technical support team which is available 24/7.
How the Device Works
The NovoTTF-100L works by creating a low-intensity electrical field. Because it kills cancer cells, the electrical fields in the NovoTTF-100L are known as tumor treatment fields, or TTFs. The TTFs are formed with crystals which are in groups called transducer arrays and are kept in insulated ceramic discs. Four transducer arrays need to be applied to the skin on the torso, where they are attached to shaved skin with bandages. These transducer arrays are single-use and should be replaced after being worn. When the device is turned on, the transducer arrays become active, forming the TTFs. The TTFs then attack the cancer cells. They harm mesothelioma cells in several ways, like:
- Stopping the rapid copying of the cancer cells
- Suppressing tumor growth
- Killing the cancer cells
Because the transducer arrays are meant to only be effective when applied to the skin, they do not expose other nearby people to the TTF fields. Further, the arrays also do not interfere with household electronics or cell phones. As the TTFs specifically target the cell division patterns of cancer cells, they do not harm healthy cells in the body.
Tips for Using the Device
The device is meant to be worn for at least 18 hours a day. Although a person can take breaks from wearing the device, any breaks should be kept to a minimum. For this reason, some people may find it more convenient to wear the device while sleeping. The NovoTTF-100L device can be used with either a battery pack or an electrical cord. Four rechargeable battery packs come with the device, each lasting around two hours. The device fits into a carrying bag which can be used as a backpack. It can be used while in the carrying bag so the person can leave home. When in the bag, the device weighs about 6.6 lbs.
Because the NovoTTF-100L device is not a medication, it does not cause whole-body side effects. Side effects from the device are minor effects on the skin which can be treated with an over the counter steroid cream. They include:
- Skin irritation
- Small sores and blisters
Skin care is important while using the device. The torso should first be washed with warm water and gentle soap. Then, an electric razor should be used to remove hair from the upper body so that the transducer arrays can be attached directly to the skin to help them stick better. The transducers arrays should then be put on the body as instructed by your doctor. The arrays will need to be replaced at least twice weekly to avoid skin irritation. However, they may need to be replaced more often if the skin becomes sweaty or wet.
Duration of Treatment with the Device
Your doctor will work with you to decide the best settings for the device. The device is meant to be used for a minimum of four weeks. When someone stops using the device, tumor growth and symptoms generally restart within one to two weeks. Treatment can continue as long as the doctor thinks it is showing benefit in fighting the cancer.
People who should not use the device include people who are sensitive to the adhesive gel used in the bandages, and people who have implanted electrical devices like pacemakers. Because the device and transducer arrays are not supposed to get wet, showers should be limited to times when the person is not wearing the device.
As the first treatment used to treat mesothelioma in 15 years, the NovoTTF-100L device gives hope to those who suffer with the disease. The device is an important part of mesothelioma therapy that may help to extend survival.