New technique hopeful option for treating cancer

June 3, 2011 4:55:32 PM PDT
For years, doctors have treated cancer with primarily three methods -- drugs, radiation, or surgery. But now scientists are turning to electrical energy to fight cancer cells that allow tumors to grow and spread.

It could be an answer to a prayer for Melisa Hernandez and her husband, Eduardo Gonzalez. Hernandez has glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer. But a simple-looking box and all of its attachments could help slow the disease's progress and improve her chance of survival. It works by delivering low-intensity electric fields to her tumor.

"The electrical frequency actually inhibits the ability of the cells to divide so that as the cells remain in a stable pattern of division, they ultimately die," Methodist Hospital Neuro-oncologist Dr. Pamela New said.

It's used with other treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. For Hernandez, who doesn't speak English, the first step was shaving her head.

"She cried a little bit..." said.

Electrodes are then placed in the right positions.

"So it's four. And each one has nine small discs," Gonzalez said.

Once in place, they stay there for at least 18 hours a day.

"It's all day long. She showers with them. She just puts a shower cap," Gonzalez said.

But Dr. New believes it's worth it. She says it's stopped the progression of Hernandez's cancer. Plus, it moves scientists a step closer to beating this deadly disease.

"Every small step counts, every piece of the puzzle that you can put together to answer the questions involving brain cancer," Dr. New said.

The idea of using electricity to fight cancer was developed by a scientist in Israel. Now besides brain cancer, they're testing the device on lung cancer and breast cancer. And they think it just may help against pancreatic cancer.


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