Glioblastomas are one of the most malignant and lethal cancers. Despite recent treatment advancements, median survival is only 12 to 16 months. In 2015, the Optune device, a novel, non-invasive treatment modality was approved by the FDA for use alongside standard treatment regimens for newly diagnosed glioblastomas after a large-scale clinical trial found that it extended overall survival by at least 5 months (1,2). The Optune device is a wearable, portable instrument that uses external electrodes attached to the scalp to continuously deliver electric fields to the tumor site. But what exactly is going on under the cap?

n 2000, Yoram Palti, then an emeritus professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, founded the global oncology company Novocure with the goal of establishing the scientific groundwork and developing the technology for a new treatment modality in the fight against difficult-to-treat cancers like glioblastoma. Palti knew that cancer cells constantly undergo cell division and many key molecules orchestrating mitosis are polarizable, meaning that they have positive and negative ends that respond to an external electric field. “Palti envisioned that alternating electric fields at certain frequencies could have an impact on the intracellular components in a dividing cell in a way that will interfere with division events,” said Uri Weinberg, chief science officer at Novocure.

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