An awesome new cancer treatment kills dividing cells with electricity.
The particularly lethal brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme is fast-growing, difficult to treat, and nearly always fatal; even with aggressive therapy, patients have a median survival time of less than two years. But scientists are pursuing new ways to attack this type of brain tumor, and one company may just be succeeding. NovoCure, a small startup founded in Israel in 2000, has developed a device that uses an electric field to disrupt the growth of cancer cells, and early results are promising. Out of ten patients who started using the device in combination with chemotherapy shortly after their initial diagnosis, seven are still alive more than four years later, and five of them show no signs of cancer progression.
NovoCure's device consists of insulated electrode pairs placed on a patient's body near the tumors, attached by leads to a three-kilogram battery that the patient carries everywhere. The electrodes emit low-intensity electric fields that rapidly alternate to create a current that has no effect on any tissue in the body except dividing cells. Just before a dividing cell splits in two, it briefly forms an hourglass shape before the two daughter cells pinch off, and this shape is particularly vulnerable to electricity. The current gets concentrated at the cell's narrow waist, and at the very moment of division, the cell membrane is destroyed, and the cells disintegrate.
Absolutely brilliant. Please keep up the good work.