In this March 29, 2017 photo, Joyce Endresen wears an Optune therapy device for brain cancer, as she speaks on a phone at work in Aurora, Ill. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)
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It sounds like science fiction, but a cap-like device that makes electric fields to fight cancer improved survival for the first time in more than a decade for people with deadly brain tumors, final results of a large study suggest. Many doctors are skeptical of the therapy, called tumor treating fields, and it's not a cure. But in the study, more than twice as many patients were alive five years after getting it, plus the usual chemotherapy, than those given just the chemo – 13 versus 5 percent.In a 2011 study, the device didn't improve survival but caused fewer symptoms than chemo did for people whose tumors had worsened or recurred after standard treatments.A second study, in newly diagnosed patients, was stopped in 2014 after about half of the 695 participants had been tracked for at least 18 months, because those using the device were living several months longer on average than the rest."The device is now impossible to ignore ... it absolutely is an advance," said Dr. Andrew Lassman, brain tumor chief at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He consults for Novocure, as do some doctors running the study.Joyce Endresen's insurance covers all but about $1,000 a year for her device.
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