The effects of alternating electric fields in glioblastoma: Current evidence on therapeutic mechanisms and clinical outcomes

Azeem A. Rehman, Kevin B. Elmore, Tobias A. Mattei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma is both the most common and most lethal primary CNS malignancy in adults, accounting for 45.6% of all malignant CNS tumors, with a 5-year survival rate of only 5.0%, despite the utilization of multimodal therapy including resection, chemotherapy, and radiation. Currently available treatment options for glioblastoma often remain limited, offering brief periods of improved survival, but with substantial side effects. As such, improvements in current treatment strategies or, more likely, the implementation of novel strategies altogether are warranted. In this topic review, the authors provide a comprehensive review on the potential of alternating electric fields (AEFs) in the treatment of glioblastoma. Alternating electric fields-also known as tumor-treating fields (TTFs)-represent an entirely original therapeutic modality with preliminary studies suggesting comparable, and at times improved, efficacy to standard chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of recurrent glioblastoma. A recent multicenter, Phase III, randomized clinical trial comparing NovoTTF-100A monotherapy to physician's best choice chemotherapy in patients with recurrent glioblastoma revealed that AEFs have similar efficacy to standard chemotherapeutic agents with a more favorable side-effects profile and improved quality of life. In particular, AEFs were shown to have limited systemic adverse effects, with the most common side effect being contact dermatitis on the scalp at the sites of transducer placement. This study prompted FDA approval of the NovoTTF-100A system in April 2011 as a standalone therapy for treatment of recurrent glioblastoma refractory to surgical and radiation treatment. In addition to discussing the available clinical evidence regarding the utilization of AEFs in glioblastoma, this article provides essential information regarding the supposed therapeutic mechanism as well as modes of potential tumor resistance to such novel therapy, delineating future perspectives regarding basic science research on the issue.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE14
JournalNeurosurgical Focus
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Alternating electric fields
  • Glioblastoma
  • Neurooncology
  • Overall survival
  • Progression-free survival
  • Tumor-treating fields


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