It's a shock right to the heart of the cancer system: An FDA panel has signed off on a new device that could forever change how the deadliest brain tumors are treated.
There are no drugs... no chemo... no surgery... and best of all, almost no side effects.
So naturally, the mainstream hates it already--and there's no assurance that the FDA itself will take its panel's advice and approve the machine.
The new treatment is the NovoTTF-100A System, and it might sound a little scary at first: It's a portable, battery-powered device connected to a set of electrodes placed on the head.
For 18 hours a day, it sends wave after wave of electricity right into the brain.
You can see an image of it here.
It looks like a torture device... but believe it or not, the only thing the patient feels is a little warmth on the scalp--and it can be worn during just about all normal daily activities (except for maybe a jump in the pool).
In one clinical trial, the NovoTTF outperformed chemo for patients diagnosed with recurrent glioblastoma, an especially aggressive and deadly form of cancer.
In that study, NovoTTF patients lived an average of 6.6 months, versus 6 months for chemo. They were also more likely to live for a year, 23.6 percent versus 20.8 percent for the chemo patients.
That's a small difference--but one that looks a heckuva lot bigger when you realize that it comes with none of the life-wrecking side effects of chemo.
But of course, the mainstream won't take this one lying down, and even the FDA panel that ultimately approved it was badly split: The vote on the critical issue of the device's effectiveness was a deadlock, 6-6.
Fortunately, the chair of the panel voted "yes" to break the tie--and let the record show that Robert Hurst, MD, a professor of radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, made no friends in the chemo industry with his bold vote that day.
Weirdly, on the issue of whether the benefits outweighed the risks, the panel was also fractured--7 yes, 3 no and 2 abstention votes.
Why is that weird?
Because the same group also voted 12-0 that the device is safe--and since the only known side effect is a rash on the site of the electrodes, it would have been hard to argue otherwise.
But if everyone agrees that the device is totally safe... wouldn't any benefit at all immediately outweigh the non-existent risks?
Sounds to me like there's more than science at work here--but that shouldn't surprise anyone. There are just too many people with too much at stake in keeping the system exactly as it is.
Stay tuned--I'll be keeping an eye on this one for you.