Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Living A Life

"They [operating surgeons] did as well as they possibly could."
"It [TTFields therapy] has allowed me to prioritize what makes me happy. If I am in a happy place, it allows me to prioritize what makes me happy in the short term as opposed to the long term."
"In the school, I am extremely open to talking about it [brain cancer/electromagnetic field therapy]. What a learning opportunity to not only meet someone with cancer, but someone who is doing very well with cancer."
"I feel wonderful. I am very active. I am working."
"I have a great relationship with the staff [at Blyth Academy] and other colleagues and a great relationship with the students. Life could probably not be any better than it is now."
Denis Raymond, Ottawa teacher
Teacher Denis Raymond was 26 when he was diagnosed with a severe form of brain cancer. He says he was fortunate to get in on a clinical trial involving electromagnetic field therapy.
Teacher Denis Raymond was 26 when he was diagnosed with a severe form of brain cancer. He says he was fortunate to get in on a clinical trial involving electromagnetic field therapy. Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen

Results of a unique research protocol were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. With the study results was an editorial explaining that additional research must be conducted for a fuller understanding of the scientific basis for the therapy known as TTFields. A clinical trial had taken place out of which the conclusions were assessed and published. It was a trial of a type of electromagnetic field therapy.

Basically, tumour-treating fields disrupt the division of cancer cells through their delivery of low-intensity, intermediate-frequency alternating electric fields, delivered through "transducer arrays" that are attached to the shaven scalp of a patient-subject. One of the patients involved with this trial was Denis Raymond, who had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable form of brain cancer.

When he presented at hospital as a result of dreadful migraines, his diagnosis was swift and the surgery that followed just as swift, taking place within 36 hours of his having been diagnosed. The tumour that was pressing on Denis Raymond's brain was removed at The Ottawa Hospital. Approximately 99 percent of the mass had been removed, and the surgery was considered a success.

Then came a regimen familiar to cancer patients; radiation followed by chemotherapy. Patients with glioblastoma multiforme have a survival time of roughly a year-and-a-half following diagnosis. And despite the surgery and the follow-up regime  to try to reduce what was left of the tumour, Denis Raymond's prognosis remained stark. Dr. Garth Nicholas, oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa delivered the devastating prognosis.

Which led Mr. Raymond to involve himself in perusing everything he felt could possibly help him understand his medical condition. Eventually he read information about a clinical trial involving electromagnetic field therapy. It was a randomized control trial that he was interested in taking part in. He called the closest American city where the trial was taking place, hoping to be accepted into the trial.

And he was informed that Ottawa was included in the trial proceedings, given the name of the very oncologist who had looked after him in hospital, Dr. Nicholas. Dr. Nicholas was leading the Canadian arm of the trial, and soon after consulting with him, Mr. Raymond began wearing the device in the fall of 2013, his progress closely monitored. A year later the trial was terminated because the results were positive.

Of those associated with the randomized trial, 210 patients used the electric field device while receiving chemotherapy, while 105 patients received chemotherapy without the use of the device. The median overall survival rate after 38 months for those with the device along with chemotherapy drug temozolomide, was 20.5 months, while the median overall survival rate for those using the drug in isolation turned out to be 15.6 months.

In other words, 43 percent of those receiving the experimental therapy alongside standard therapy remained alive after two years, in comparison to 29 percent who had standard therapy alone. The company that manufactures the device funded the study. Despite its success, the device is not available in Canada for clinical use, though Mr. Raymond has been permitted its continued use.

He feels great regret that the device is not available generally for others diagnosed with this form of cancer: "It is a real shame". But wearing the device daily has made a tremendous difference for him. Dr. Nicholas points out that Mr. Raymond has beaten the odds and is able to enjoy quality of life: "This is the first study of this kind on a device in the first line of treatment. In a way, Denis is in the vanguard", he commented.

(Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)
(Wayne Cuddington/ Ottawa Citizen)  Denis Raymond is a teacher at Blythe Academy who has incurable brain cancer. His life has been prolonged by wearing an electronic device on his head that sends a mild electrical current through his brain

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