Around 15,000 people are diagnosed every year in America with glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. At Novocure—a global oncology and medical device company with its North American flagship facility located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—scientists and manufacturers have developed a device to revolutionize the way these tumors are treated.
The breakthrough: Novocure’s founder Yoram Palti developed an innovative treatment called Tumor Treating Fields therapy—an approach that uses electric fields to kill cancer cells while sparing healthy ones.
- For adult glioblastoma patients, the device, called Optune®, consists of wearable, portable adhesive arrays and an electric generator that can be carried in a bag.
- “Unhealthy cells and healthy cells have different properties,” said Frank Leonard, president, CNS Cancers U.S. at Novocure. “If you can create the right type of electric field, you can exert force and destroy cancer cells as they divide.”
Value added: Crucially, Tumor Treating Fields therapy is being studied together with other therapies, giving patients access to an optimal mix of treatments.
- “You get the best of both worlds with a device intervention and a drug intervention,” said Leonard. “Patients can wear this device consistently while using Temozolomide, which is the current standard of care chemotherapy agent used to treat glioblastoma.”
Low risk: Unlike drug therapies, which can present a range of adverse effects, Optune® has few side effects beyond mild-to-moderate skin irritation beneath the transducer arrays. As a result, patients can receive the treatment continuously for extended periods of time to attack cancer cells.
- “Typically, the limiting factor in treating cancer is dose-limiting toxicity—for example, you can only take one or two chemotherapies at the same time because they’re so toxic,” said Leonard.
Getting heard: The company’s device was featured in the award-winning short film “Rare Enough,” which tells the inspiring story of cancer survivor DJ Stewart and his journey in battling glioblastoma.
- Stewart is a Kansas City–based skateboarder who was first diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2019. Thanks, in part, to Tumor Treating Fields therapy, his life expectancy—once only 13 months—has been prolonged significantly. DJ now serves as a community outreach coordinator for the Head for the Cure Foundation.
Next steps: Novocure believes that Tumor Treating Fields therapy holds significant promise for other types of cancer as well. The company is developing additional wearable devices that could treat countless patients around the world.
- Lung cancer trials have shown promising results recently, and the company expects to learn more in the coming months from clinical trials involving ovarian cancer, metastases from lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.
- “We started working first in one of the rarer, yet most aggressive, forms of cancer. There are around 15,000 patients diagnosed with glioblastoma in the U.S. each year,” said Leonard. “But pre-clinical data suggests that Tumor Treating Fields can work with all different tumor types.”
A look to the future: Wearable anti-cancer devices offer an exciting new frontier in the fight against life-threatening diseases, and an important field where manufacturers can make an enormous difference.
- “In these really aggressive cancers, we still are making advances—and advanced devices that require sophisticated engineering and complex global manufacturing have a role to play,” said Leonard. “There’s a lot the manufacturing industry can do to improve the outcomes of patients, and they should be recognized for that work.”
ANN ARBOR, MICH. – The National Association of Manufacturers announced today that it will offer an association health plan to its members, extending affordable health care to small and medium-sized manufacturing companies and member associations in approved states. In states where the association health plan is not available, the NAM will connect manufacturers with available small-group options in their state.
“This association health plan is another step in our work to make the NAM a one-stop shop for manufacturing across the United States,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “With small and medium-sized businesses making up more than 90 percent of our membership, this plan will help provide health care and reduce uncertainty for workers and their employers across the country.”
The plan, called NAM Health Care (www.namhealthcare.com), was developed to meet manufacturers’ unique health care needs. It will offer a portfolio of health benefits options insured by UnitedHealthcare. In states where these plans are available, businesses with 2 to 99 employees will be able to choose from a variety of PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) and HSA (Health Savings Account) health plans. Members will also have access to UnitedHealthcare’s Choice Plus care provider network of more than 1.2 million physicians and care professionals and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare will work with any licensed or appointed agents who want to sell NAM Health Care.
In addition, Mercer will provide the NAM’s small business members with consulting services regarding health benefits offerings and contribution strategies, marketing support to educate and enroll their employees, plan administration and compliance services. The Mercer Affinity 365+sm platform will provide members technology for quoting, enrollment and ongoing benefits administration to drive cost efficiencies and facilitate employee engagement.
Association health plans allow companies to band together to manage and purchase health care coverage that may save on annual health insurance costs by providing plans that are typically enjoyed by larger companies at a competitive price. Under NAM Health Care, eligible member companies also will have access to supplemental benefits, including dental, vision and life.
“The work that manufacturers are doing every day grows the economy and strengthens our country, and they deserve the health care they need to do that job with certainty and support,” said Timmons. “At the NAM, we are proud to help lower costs and increase competitive health coverage for the men and women who make things in America.”
NAM Health Care is quoting these plans for eligible member groups for a Sept. 1, 2019, enrollment date. To enroll in these plans, where available, interested businesses may visit www.namhealthcare.com.