Northwest Cancer Clinic adds new weapon in fight against brain cancer

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The Northwest Cancer Clinic in Kennewick is giving patients with glioblastoma brain cancers a new tool to battle invasive cancer cells — a device called Optune.

Northwest Cancer Clinic in Kennewick is affiliated with 21st Century Oncology, a national provider of integrated cancer care services. It was one of the first medical practices nationally to provide Optune.

“If you have a new weapon to fight the brain tumor – even if you’re prolonging survival – it’s a huge benefit because, like I tell my patients, then there may be something else that can help later,” said Dr. Sheila Rege, M.D., who has been an oncologist in the Tri-Cities for 18 years. “It’s been several years since we’ve seen something that can control glioblastoma. That’s why there’s so much excitement.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Optune device in October.

The makers of Optune, the Jersey Isle-based Novocure, did an extensive study treating 457 gliobastoma patients in the U.S. with the Optune device from October 2011 through November 2013.

Optune is a portable, non-invasive medical device that creates low-intensity, alternating electric fields within a tumor that exert physical forces on electrically-charged cellular components, killing cancer cells.

Rege said the Northwest Cancer Clinic strives to provide the most up-to-date technology and care, to its patients, and obtaining devices like Optune helps the center accomplish that mission.

About 6 percent of the local clinic’s patients have had glioblastoma, the fastest growing and most aggressive of brain tumors.

“Anything we can do to slow that down is great news,” Rege said. “It’s not a substitute for surgery. It’s an option to use along with other standard therapies.”

Generally, brain cancer is treated with surgery to remove the malignant tumors, radiation to kill the cancer and/or chemotherapy, when intravenous drugs are used to kills cancer cells.

Optune is used by patients at home. They apply it to the scalp over the tumor area and it creates alternating electric fields that travel across the upper part of the brain in different directions to help slow or stop recurrent cancer cells from dividing. The beauty is that side effects are few compared to systemic therapy, which affects cells throughout the body, Rege said.

“Because of the side effects being less with Optune, I think it’ll be adopted widely and offered to patients as an option,” Rege said.

The study’s safety analysis showed that 24.3 percent of patients had skin reactions and 11.3 percent experienced heat sensations — the two most common side effects.

Dr. Rege said that like most doctors, she is cautiously optimistic about the study’s findings.

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Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno has been in the “news” business for more than 20 years. She is passionate about writing, and is also an educator with the goal of igniting young minds so they might discover their potentials. She lives in the Yakima Valley with her children, two mini schnauzers, two lizards and multitudes of fish. She enjoys camping, kayaking and breathing in the ocean air. She hopes to one day be a published novelist and see her work being read by the masses … or even by just one who is moved by her story.

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