Healthwatch: Fighting Brain Cancer

By: Sciencentral
By: Sciencentral

Michael Quatrano's head is covered with electrodes and he's tethered to a device and battery pack, minor inconveniences after the surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that failed to stop his aggressive brain tumor from growing.

"Ever since I've been in this research, I've been doing better," said Quatrano. "So here we are. I feel good. I don't have all the reactions from chemo and radiation. And it's working out."

Quatrano entered a clinical trial for the most common and lethal type of brain cancer. Neuro-Oncologist Herb Engelhard explains it's based on a new finding that dividing cells are vulnerable to a certain strength of electrical energy which is harmless to normal cells.

"Normally in the brain, cells aren't dividing at all. Very infrequently. And cancer cells are dividing very rapidly or very often," said Engelhard of the University of Illinois-Chicago.

As published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," a safety study of ten patients in Europe found the treatment more than doubled their expected survival time on average. Engelhard says new treatments are badly needed.

"Very often we think of a tumor as being a separate mass, but this is really a cancer that by the time it's diagnosed it's already got cells migrating deep into the brain," Engelhard said.

Quatrano doesn't care if he needs to wear the device for the rest of his life. His advice to others diagnosed with this vicious opponent.

"Fight," said Engelhard. "Don't believe what they say about the six months and all that because in that time you go through a lot of drama in your head. And this thing is okay."


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