We introduced you to a man from Luzerne County battling brain cancer, and to the promising new device he is using to try to beat it.
Kim Byriel of Mountain Top is a 43-year-old husband and father of two, who last summer was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer: a glioblastoma multiforme.
“It’s not only the deadliest tumor, it’s one of the deadliest cancers you can have. Every single day you can buy, you’re closer to a cure,” said Kim.
He has had surgery and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. For the past year, his treatment has also included a device he wears on his head, called a Tumor Treating Field- a new approach using an electrical field to break down tumor cells. It hasn’t been deemed a cure, but Kim and his wife Julia strongly believe it is buying him time.
“What the FDA has approved this for is cases where they’ve been resected, they’ve been treated, and there’s a relapse of the tumor,” said Dr. Michel Lacroix, a neurosurgeon oncologist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
Dr. Lacroix explains that cells are polarized, and the unit, applied directly to the head using stickers, alters that polarity and breaks them down. It works with no radiation or chemicals, and very few side effects.
“It is a regional treatment, not a systemic treatment. So the bone marrow, for example, which is usually attacked by chemotherapy, is not affected by that,” said Dr. Lacroix.
“It doesn’t feel like a whole lot. it doesn’t hurt or make any weird sounds. It generates a little bit of heat up here,” Kim told us.
He and Julia admit the device is a big commitment. He wears it 21 hours a day, and must carry around a supply of rechargeable batteries. They refer to the unit’s carrying case as his diaper bag.
“We go out for walks every single day in the neighborhood, go to lunch in Wilkes-Barre. (People) they stare. My wife notices more than me. I don’t care,” said Kim.
But considering he hasn’t seen tumor regrowth since May, they’re on board with whatever it takes.
“We decided from the beginning that we will go through this together. We will fight it together and do whatever we can,” said Julia.
Dr. Lacroix notes that Geisinger Medical Center is one of only 17 clinical trial sites in the nation, and that about 10 patients in the hospital system are currently using it.