Cancer Therapy - Electromagnetic fields

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Hi everyone. I'm an electronics eng. student, and, during my studies, and my life outside university, I've heard several times of how electromagnetic fields could affect our body, in a way or another. There are also various resources talking about how these fields can attack cancer (electro-cancer therapy, if I'm right), but, If I consider all people still dying from cancer, I don't think this is a solution that works very well. What do you think about it? You think electric fields, or currents in a way or another, can, in some way, make our health better ( with cancer, or with mental problems like schizophrenia), or they're just...hoaxes? If yes, are there any challenges, in this "field" of medicine? Like machinery that doesn't work very well, or very costly machinery? Thank you for your answers
 

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  • #2
CalcNerd
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You're asking for opinion on a physics board. This probably isn't the place, but, Hey, I'm game. I believe the current methods of Chemo are to ingest a substance that will collect around the cancer blob and then direct harmful radiation at a frequency that will kill the cancer cells (and the smallest adjoining area) and let the body's natural healing process carry away/clean up the damage. Works often enough to be the standard method for advanced cases of cancer. Does it work all the time? No, it is just the technology we have that works more than other methods we have at this time.

There are all sorts of on the horizon technologies, but you use what you got now. Sure, if I had my choice, I would wait until a better remedy was available, but I don't believe anyone afflicted with cancer has those options.
 
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Ygggdrasil
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I believe the current methods of Chemo are to ingest a substance that will collect around the cancer blob
Nope. Chemotherapeutic agents, in most cases, are applied systemically to the entire body, which is why many of them can have quite severe side effects. There are some classes of chemotherapeutic agent (for example, monoclonal antibodies) that will specifically bind to cancer cells and avoid other types of cells, but most anticancer drugs will be moving throughout the body.

and then direct harmful radiation at a frequency that will kill the cancer cells (and the smallest adjoining area) and let the body's natural healing process carry away/clean up the damage.
Although radiation is used to treat some cancers, chemotherapeutic agents do not work through radiation. Chemotherapy relies on small molecule drugs that interfere with biochemical processes in rapidly dividing cells, but not other types of cells. So, even though the drugs are everywhere in the body, they have the greatest effect on cancer cells (though other rapidly dividing cells like bone marrow and hair follicles are also affected).

Here's a useful recent PF thread discussing cancer therapies: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/why-so-many-treatments-for-cancer.806098/

As for the topic of electromagnetic fields, although there is some research on the effects of electromagnetic fields on people (some of which is pure pseudoscience), I am not aware of any approved cancer treatments or cancer therapies in clinical trials that work in this way. Could you post some links to reputable sources (scientific journals, news articles from major publishers) discussing these types of treatments?
 
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CalcNerd
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Thanks for educating me. It is appreciated. I learned a lot from your post.
 
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Ygggdrasil
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Thanks for educating me. It is appreciated. I learned a lot from your post.
That's what we're here for :D
 
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As for magnetic fields being used as a therapy for schizophrenia, I would recommend this treatment only for those cases who found tin foil hat therapy to be ineffective.
 
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berkeman
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As for the topic of electromagnetic fields, although there is some research on the effects of electromagnetic fields on people (some of which is pure pseudoscience), I am not aware of any approved cancer treatments or cancer therapies in clinical trials that work in this way. Could you post some links to reputable sources (scientific journals, news articles from major publishers) discussing these types of treatments?
He may be referring to RF Ablation treatments for cancer:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/radiofrequency-ablation/basics/definition/prc-20013951

Or a variation that does not insert a probe, and uses conductive nanoparticles and an external RF field to selectively heat the cancer tissue:

http://www.nature.com/srep/2014/141113/srep07034/full/srep07034.html

:smile:
 
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This is one article, that I think has some sort of "validity" : it's about FDA, in the US; approving electro therapy for cancer:
http://www.gizmag.com/treatment-of-brain-tumors-with-electrical-fields/21433/
It's a portable device that, according to whom designed it, cures brain tumors....I've seen a similar article too on MIT technology review
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/408374/electric-fields-kill-tumors/
Anyone has other informations about that? About any fallacies of these inventions? Or if they're something in which one should really believe?
 
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Ygggdrasil
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This is one article, that I think has some sort of "validity" : it's about FDA, in the US; approving electro therapy for cancer:
http://www.gizmag.com/treatment-of-brain-tumors-with-electrical-fields/21433/
It's a portable device that, according to whom designed it, cures brain tumors....I've seen a similar article too on MIT technology review
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/408374/electric-fields-kill-tumors/
Anyone has other informations about that? About any fallacies of these inventions? Or if they're something in which one should really believe?
Thanks for posting those links. I am still skeptical of the idea behind the treatment, though less so than before knowing that there are FDA-approved devices using these principles. I will make two comments, however:

1) It is much easier to get FDA approval for medical devices (many say too easy) than for drugs. FDA approval for medical devices is not necessarily a guarantee of efficacy.

2) I took a look at one of the publications from the phase III clinical trial for the device. Here's the conclusion section from the abstract:
This is the first controlled trial evaluating an entirely novel cancer treatment modality delivering electric fields rather than chemotherapy. No improvement in overall survival was demonstrated, however efficacy and activity with this chemotherapy-free treatment device appears comparable to chemotherapy regimens that are commonly used for recurrent glioblastoma. Toxicity and quality of life clearly favoured TTF.
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22608262)

The study basically offers no evidence for any efficacy against brain cancer. They do note that the patient outcomes were similar to those on chemotherapy (those using the device were not on chemotherapy), but because their patient population were those with recurrent glioblastoma (i.e. people for whom chemotheraphy had failed in the past), the chemotherapy was probably not prolonging survival either. I remain a skeptic.
 
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Ok...although it was the only article on""official" websites, that I ve read....Thank you for your opinion :)
 
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I don t want to be too intrusive, with my questions, it s jusy something related to the topic...anyway, I ve been searching here forums talking about the electric therapy and I saw ( it s a february 2012 thread) you talking well about it and publiahing stuff similar to what I put here, and now you re skeptical..Did something make you stop believe in such cures, or I just understood bad ypur posts?
 
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Ygggdrasil
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I don t want to be too intrusive, with my questions, it s jusy something related to the topic...anyway, I ve been searching here forums talking about the electric therapy and I saw ( it s a february 2012 thread) you talking well about it and publiahing stuff similar to what I put here, and now you re skeptical..Did something make you stop believe in such cures, or I just understood bad ypur posts?
I assume you are referring to this thread:
https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/bill-doyle-treating-cancer-with-electric-fields.573260/

I'll copy my response from that thread here:
Ygggdrasil said:
At first, I was very skeptical and thought that this idea looks like complete non-sense, but after looking into it, it seems somewhat legit. Doyle's company, Novocure, has made a device based on this principle that has undergone clinical testing (http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00916409) and has been FDA approved for treating brain cancer (http://www.webmd.com/cancer/brain-cancer/news/20110418/fda-approves-new-device-brain-tumor-treatment). Various studies of the principle (for example, http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0702916104) have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Despite all of this, I still don't see why this device works. Supposedly, it works by disrupting microtubules during cell division (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703303904575292691538647642.html has a quick summary). First, I don't fully understand how and why microtubules are specifically targeted by the treatment. Second, even if the electrical fields do selectively disrupt microtubules, I still don't see why the treatment works because microtubules have other important roles in non-dividing cells, especially in the brain. For example, microtubules help to transport materials in the cell, a task that is especially important in neurons which have very long, extended processes such as its axons and dendrites. Because of this, it seems like the brain would be the area where you would want to avoid most with a treatment that acts by disrupting microtubles. Yet somehow, the device seems safe and seems to work?
I remain skeptical about the mechanism for how the device is supposed to work, and since the time I made that post, the Novocure team published the results of their clinical trial that I referenced in my previous post as showing no efficacy.

bobze also seemed skeptical of the device in that previous thread:
bobze said:
You can catch the full FDA application and approval here.

Its not intended as a first use device and only intended to be used after chemotheraputic and surgical avenues are exhausted. Considering that GBM (glioblastoma multiforme) has such a terrible 5 year survival rate--I'm not convinced the very small increases in life span are real. I don't have time to look through their studies at the moment though, but my bulls%&$ meter is spiking--FDA device approval is, quite frankly, poorly regulated--And everyone in clinical medicine knows it. There is almost no oversight on device efficacy as compared to pharmacological agents. We did an interesting dissection of the terrible approval for stint-placement in certain stroke types. Though the FDA had approved the actually stints (pre-big head to head trial mind you), when research actually got around to a head to head, they found there was a significant increase in mortality with stint placement.

Turns out, most "medical devices" get to circumvent going in a head to head trial with standard of care (SOC) procedures and protocols. Why? That's a damn good question. It probably has a lot to do with political lobby unfortunately--Medical device manufactures just aren't held to the same standards as pharmaceutical companies.
I agree with most of his points.


http://m.cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/64/9/3288.fullfull
http://m.cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/64/9/3288.full
I ve also seen a similar article from 2004. It s about a Israeli university that has treated in vitro tumors with electric fields. You may reply me that in vitro tumors are not lije the "real" ones. But the effect of these fields was slowing down the growth of tumors, within 3 hours or so. Tell me what you think about it :)
I haven't had time to carefully read through the study, so I can't really comment on it. I will note, however, that many potential treatments that seem to work in in vitro and animal studies, never end up succeeding in the clinic. Cancer research is hard work, and though I may not think their device is effective, I am glad that they are doing the necessary research to figure out how their device works. Brain cancer is an area where new treatments are sorely needed, and I tip my hat to those who are willing to pursue new ideas in this area.
 
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  • #14
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I see :) can you rrad it when you can? I m just curios about these things, I d like to know whether it s possible or not to use fields in cancer therapy. Internet doesn t give much stuff either
 
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It doesn t give many documents about this topic
 

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