FDA recently approved an electricity-based mesothelioma treatment called Tumor Treating Fields (NovoTTF-100L) that has been FDA approved along with regular chemotherapy for mesothelioma. It is the first new cancer treatment for pleural mesothelioma since Alimta was approved in 2004. (survivingmesothelioma.com)

The FDA approval of NovoTTF-100L was determined based on strong results of the STELLAR mesothelioma clinical trial. Those results were released in April and were much better than expected.

The Tumor Treating Fields technique was invented by the company Novocure in New Jersey. It first was successful in treating glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer. The technology uses an electrical fields to destabilize vital proteins that are responsible for division of cells.

When these proteins are not able to do their necessary work, mesothelioma cells are unable to divide. Preclinical trial data has shown that mesothelioma cells are very sensitive to Tumor Treating Fields.

The STELLAR study featured 80 patients with pleural mesothelioma that is unresectable. They got the Tumor Treating Fields treatment along with regular chemotherapy. Clinical researchers compared results with data on patients with mesothelioma with patients who only received chemotherapy treatments.

Patients who received combination treatments had median survival rate of more than 1.5 years. This is more than six months longer than patients with mesothelioma who were treated only with chemotherapy. For patients with epithelial mesothelioma, the survival rate was 21 months.

Approximately 97% of NovoTTF-100L patients had some amount of disease control. It took 7.6 months for their tumors to begin to grow again. This compared to only 5.7 months for the group that only got chemotherapy.

The new treatment regimen did not seem to cause serious side effects. Based on the promising findings, FDA gave the new treatment plan Humanitarian Use Designation in 2017.

According to the owner of Novocure, since 2000, the company has developed and commercialized Tumor Treating Fields to boost survival rates in some of the toughest and most aggressive types of cancer. The company noted that FDA approval of NovoTTF-100L gives patients the first treatment approved by FDA for mesothelioma in more than a decade, and is a major milestone for treatment of the disease, plus for Novocure.

Could Tumor Treating Fields Be a New Standard of Care?

Pleural mesothelioma is mostly resistant to regular cancer treatments. Although most patients with mesothelioma get chemotherapy, most do not receive benefit from it. It is possible Tumor Treating Fields could alter that. One of the trial investigators sees a high level of promise in the new technology.

He noted this month that Tumor Treating Fields represents a very promising therapeutic option that if it is approved by FDA, should be a new standard of care for mesothelioma along with chemotherapy for treating this deadly disease.

Note that patients who have pacemakers or defibrillators cannot have this new treatments. Only medical providers who have been trained and certified by Novocure are allowed to offer it.

More Information About Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a very rare type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, or mesothelium, which is a thin covering that also covers and protects other vital organs. The most common type of mesothelioma affects the pleura, which is the lining that surrounds the lungs and chest cavity.

Other common sites of the disease are the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdominal cavity, and the pericardium, which is the lining surrounding the heart.

Mesothelioma usually affects older adults who were exposed for many years at work to asbestos. Mesothelioma generally has a poor prognosis, with most patients surviving only 12 to 14 months with standard treatments.

Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma

The symptoms of the disease depend on the type, location and stage of the disease. But early in the disease, most people show no symptoms, and the tumors can be hard to see on an x-ray. (rarediseases.org)

In as many as 85% of mesothelioma patients, the disease starts in the membranes around the lungs. Fluid may collect around the lungs, which is called a pleural effusion. Symptoms of near death usually are difficulty breathing, chest pain, or chronic cough. Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing also can occur, but this is usually a late stage problem. A cancerous mass in the wall of the chest can develop in some patients.

When the lining surrounding the stomach is damaged by the cancer, symptoms can be sudden weight loss, pain in the abdomen, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, poor appetite, low red blood cell level, and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. Obstruction of the small bowel can occur; this is normally a late complication of the cancer.

Mesothelioma Legal Options

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with one of the forms of mesothelioma, it was almost certainly caused by asbestos exposure. Many companies produced and bought products containing asbestos for years and knew it was hazardous. Yet they failed to warn workers and consumers, or to provide any form of safety training or protective equipment.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to talk to a personal injury or wrongful death attorney in your state as soon as you receive the diagnosis. He can review the case and where you may have been exposed to the disease. At that point, it may be possible to file a legal action against the responsible company or companies.


  • Tumor Treating Fields Wins FDA Approval for Mesothelioma Treatment. (2019). Retrieved https://survivingmesothelioma.com/tumor-treating-fields-win-fda-approval-for-mesothelioma-treatment/
  • Mesothelioma Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/mesothelioma/