Tumor treating fields: a novel and effective therapy for glioblastoma: mechanism, efficacy, safety and future perspectives

Chin Clin Oncol. 2017 Aug;6(4):41. doi: 10.21037/cco.2017.06.29.


Background: Tumor treating fields (TTF, Optune®), one of the low-intensity alternating electric fields, have been demonstrated to disrupt mitosis and inhibit tumor growth with antimitotic properties in a variety of tumor types. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States approved TTF for recurrent GBM and newly diagnosed GBM in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted regarding the relevant studies published between January 1, 2000, and May 31, 2017 in PubMed database. The search term included "Tumor Treating Fields", "Optune", "TTF", "Novocure", and "GBM". This review summarizes the mechanism of action, efficacy, and adverse events based on pre-clinical studies and clinical trials for TTF in GBM.

Results: Pre-clinical studies showed that TTF could inhibit tumor growth in vitro and in vivo by disrupting mitosis, inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Two randomized phase III trials evaluated the efficacy and safety of TTF in GBM patients. It was revealed that the combination of TTF and standard chemotherapy (temozolomide) prolonged the progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) without systemic safety issues in newly diagnosed GBM (EF-14 trial). For recurrent GBM, the efficacy of TTF monotherapy was shown to be equivalent in PFS and OS without systemic adverse events when compared to the control group that received best physicians-chosen chemotherapies (EF-11 trial).

Conclusions: The advantages of TTF in GBM treatment, including non-invasive antitumor effect, superior therapeutic benefit in combination with chemotherapy, and minimal systematic toxicity, have been demonstrated in pre-clinical data and randomized phased III clinical trials. Future investigations will be needed to explore combinations of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, as well as immunotherapy with this novel anti-tumor treatment modality to achieve additive or synergistic therapeutic benefit for GBM and other solid tumors.

Keywords: tumor treating fields (TTF); Glioblastoma (GBM); Optune®; adverse event; survival.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / therapeutic use
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Dacarbazine / analogs & derivatives
  • Dacarbazine / therapeutic use
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Glioblastoma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Safety
  • Temozolomide
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating
  • Dacarbazine
  • Temozolomide