BACKGROUND: Tumor treating fields (TTFields) are increasingly used in the treatment of glioblastoma. TTFields inhibit cancer growth through induction of alternating electrical fields. To optimize TTFields efficacy, it is necessary to understand the factors determining the strength and distribution of TTFields. In this study, we provide simple guiding principles for clinicians to assess the distribution and the local efficacy of TTFields in various clinical scenarios.
METHODS: We calculated the TTFields distribution using finite element methods applied to a realistic head model. Dielectric property estimates were taken from the literature. Twentyfour tumors were virtually introduced at locations systematically varied relative to the applied field. In addition, we investigated the impact of central tumor necrosis on the induced field.
RESULTS: Local field "hot spots" occurred at the sulcal fundi and in deep tumors embedded in white matter. The field strength was not higher for tumors close to the active electrode. Left/right field directions were generally superior to anterior/posterior directions. Central necrosis focally enhanced the field near tumor boundaries perpendicular to the applied field and introduced significant field non-uniformity within the tumor.
CONCLUSIONS: The TTFields distribution is largely determined by local conductivity differences. The well conducting tumor tissue creates a preferred pathway for current flow, which increases the field intensity in the tumor boundaries and surrounding regions perpendicular to the applied field. The cerebrospinal fluid plays a significant role in shaping the current pathways and funnels currents through the ventricles and sulci towards deeper regions, which thereby experience higher fields. Clinicians may apply these principles to better understand how TTFields will affect individual patients and possibly predict where local recurrence may occur. Accurate predictions should, however, be based on patient specific models. Future work is needed to assess the robustness of the presented results towards variations in conductivity.