Electric Helmet Future Of Brain Tumor Treatment

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While it doesn't resemble Darth Vader's scary helmet in the least, this helmet is deadly to brain tumors. 

Eliane Kiourtsis of Powell is one of the first patients  in the country to use an electric helmet-looking contraption used to kill dangerous brain tumors.

Last fall, Kiourtsis was diagnosed with a dangerous brain tumor called glioblastoma. 

Doctors treated her with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but her tumor began to grow again.

Doctors at the Arthur G. James Cancer center decided to give an electrical helmet a try.

It's an array of ceramic buttons in groups of four that create an electrical field, with the help of wires, and a portable generator and battery.

"Over the last 10 to 15 years, researchers have started looking outside of the box at new ways of treating tumors," neurologist Robert Cavaliere said.

The idea is to create a low-voltage electric current targeted at the tumor.

"Electrical currents can cause changes inside of tumor cells that ultimately lead to the cell death," he said.

He said that it kills the cancer without harming normal brain cells, and studies suggest that it does about as well as chemotherapy. 

Patients must wear it at least 18 hours a day. It weighs six pounds, but Kouirtsis said that she did nto mind.

"Because I've worn it so long, it doesn't seem heavy. But it gets warm," she said.

Doctors check progress every two months with an MRI scan.

Cavaliere said that patients tolerate the electric helmet treatment better than radiation and chemotherapy.

"If we can minimize the toxicity and side effects of therapies, that will go a long way toward making people better," he said.

While the helmet is currently being used only on patients who have recurrent brain tumors, he said that the medical center soon will start a clinical trial to see if it can be effective on newly diagnosed brain tumors as well.

Elaine Kiourtsis laughed.  "I'm hoping that it will cure me," she said.

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