Treating Tumors With Electrical Fields

Electric fields are already being used to treat a type of brain cancer..

Plasma Emission Field Treatment, or PEFT is literally the wave of the future in cancer treatment.

In music, the frequency of a wave relates to whether a sound is high pitch or low pitch. PEFT uses the right combination of frequencies, or “chords,” if you will, that might be used to selectively shatter cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed.

There are two competing companies in this field of research and development.

Novobitronics, run by Dr. Anthony Holland, is a 501c 3 that depends on public donations. Novocure is a billion dollar company that has already secured FDA approval for some treatments. Both companies have had successes and aim to improve cancer therapy through innovation.

This Is Not Your Grandma’s Field Generator

Dr. Holland’s cancer busting device isn’t just any old run-of-the-mill field generator. Pulsing radio frequencies are sent through a glass tube that is filled with helium gas. The gas in the tube is “electrified,” and lights up. This electrified gas is called plasma, which is the fourth state of matter. Dr. Holland's plasma antenna has very specific properties that help destroy cancer cells.

Novobiotronics Advantages

The difference between these two types of PEFT is the method of delivery. Novocure uses insulated electrode arrays. While this method is effective, it has to “line up” just right with the cancer cells.

Picture a bowling ball rolling towards bowling pins, or in this case cancer cells, and this will give you some idea of how Novocure’s device has to line up just right with the cancer cells.  

“One great advantage of the plasma antenna is that it is a kind of 'universal antenna,' capable of emitting electric fields in all directions at once,” says Dr. Holland as he explains his technology.

Another advantage is the use of a pulsed frequency. This avoids the buildup of heat, which could destroy healthy tissues in a patient’s body.

Novocure's device, called Optune, is currently FDA-approved in the treatment of a highly aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme, or GMB. It indicated to treat patients with newly-diagnosed GMB and is given along with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (TMZ) following standard treatments that include surgery, and radiation therapy and chemotherapy used together.

In the clinical study used to support the indication, patients treated with the device and TMZ lived on average three months longer than those treated with the drug alone. The most common side effect experienced with Optune was skin irritation.

Early Success in Leukemia Research

Dr. Holland’s PETF treatment is having great success in vitro against chronic myelogenous leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia (also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia). On average, with PETF treatment alone, 25 to 42 percent of the leukemia cells were being killed.

This was exciting news, but more excitement was to follow. Late one evening, while working in the lab at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), Dr. Holland received a phone call from the lab director, who had reproduced Dr. Holland's results independently.

The lab director was so amazed that he directed his top lab assistant to do the same experiment, but he did not reveal his results to his lab assistant. His lab assistant conducted the test, and once again, the same results – 25 to 42 percent of the leukemia cells were killed.

What happens when Holland's PETF delivery method is utilized in vitro with standard chemotherapy adds another level of excitement. In 2010 he decided to continue testing leukemia cells using PETF, but coupled with graded chemo drugs. Graded means the drug was tested at full strength and then stepped down in strength.

Dr. Holland explains, “To the utter astonishment of the cancer researchers at TJU, when we treated these cancer cells with our electronic devices, in the graded chemo experiment, the data showed that the lowest concentration of the drug, at 1/16th of what is normally needed, was effective to kill the cancer cells. We were able to DOUBLE the kill rate…” So, the two therapies seem to work together, with the promise of less toxicity.

Research Highlights

Recently, Dr. Holland’s international research team was asked to give two scientific presentations at BIOEM 2015, in Monterey, California. The leading electromagnetic field researchers in the world gather at BIOM to discuss their research on the effects of these fields on different organisms, including humans.

Dr. Holland presented his leukemia studies at the conference and his findings were well received. Despite Novobiotronics' small size, they recently opened their own lab, and are projecting budgets to begin testing the PETF technology on mice injected with leukemia. Based on Novocures success with their device, Dr. Holland has high hopes that Novobiotronics will outperform the competition.


Hirst AM, Simms MS, Mann VM, Maitland NJ, O’Connell D, Frame FM. Low-temperature plasma treatment induces DNA damage leading to necrotic cell death in primary prostate epithelial cells. British Journal of Cancer. 2015;112(9):1536-1545.

Novobiotronics, Inc.The Future of Biotechnology Research. Accessed February 2016.

Bioelectromagnetics Society.BIOEM. Accessed February 2016.

Anthony G. Holland, Skidmore College; Novobiotronics Inc.; Saratoga Springs, NY, USA. Cell fragmentation and inhibition of proliferation of human leukemia cells in vitro by frequency specific amplitude modulated RF pulsed plasmas. Accessed February 2016.

Novobiotronics. Scientific and Historical Treasures. Accessed February 2016.

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