International Brain Tumour Awareness Week

Saturday, 24th October to Saturday, 31st October 2020


Tumour-treating fields

Tumour-treating fields (TTF) are used as a treatment for certain types of brain tumour. The technique involves pulsing mild, alternating electrical fields through the skin of the scalp to slow down a tumour’s growth and its ability to spread. 

The TTF disrupt the process of cell division, which is needed to make more cells. Normal adult brain cells divide slowly, if at all, so are thought not to be affected by TTF. By contrast, tumour cells divide rapidly and are therefore sensitive to TTF treatment.

When the tumour cells are prevented from dividing by TTF, they self-destruct. As more tumour cells die, the tumour shrinks.

A device called Optune® has been FDA approved (USA) and CE marked (EU) as a treatment option for adults with newly diagnosed glioblastoma or recurrent glioblastoma. It is not currently available in the UK due to high costs.

To use the Optune® system, the patient’s head must be shaved. They then wear a skull cap comprising adhesive patches that hold insulated ceramic discs (called transducer arrays). Precise placement of these arrays is important to achieve the best clinical response. 

The arrays are attached by wires to a portable battery-powered device that is carried in a shoulder bag or backpack. This device produces the TTF. 

Optune® has to be worn continuously, and for at least 18 hours per day. The arrays also have to be changed, and the scalp re-shaved, one to two times per week, to make sure a good contact is maintained with the skull.

There is interest in giving TTF in combination with other treatments for brain tumours. It is also an attractive treatment strategy for poor prognosis paediatric brain tumours.


TTF 720

Video from Culicchia Neurology on YouTube.