Prof. Dr. Josef Vymazal remembers the day that he met the Novocure team. Eilon Kirson, Novocure’s former Chief Science Officer and Head of Research and Development, visited Dr. Vymazal in 2004 at Na Homolce Hospital in Prague, where Dr. Vymazal worked as a clinical neurologist and radiologist, to discuss running a clinical trial on Tumor Treating Fields for glioblastoma (GBM) patients. Earlier in his career, including six years at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Dr. Vymazal saw many clinical trials in GBM fail.
“I was quite skeptical because nothing worked at that time,” said Dr. Vymazal, Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Na Homolce Hospital in Prague, Czech Republic. “There were no breakthroughs.”
Dr. Vymazal recalled Eilon’s persistence and diligence when they met. He remembered the difficulty that came with not having anything additional to offer recurrent GBM patients once the standard of care treatments at the time failed. Josef decided to take a chance on Tumor Treating Fields because of the therapy’s non-invasive nature and the in vitro research conducted to date.
The phase 2 pilot trial EF-07 included 10 patients with recurrent GBM, and tested the safety and efficacy of Tumor Treating Fields. Several months into the trial, Dr. Vymazal said, tumors of some of the patients began to shrink.
“We were surprised,” he said. “More and more patients were surviving longer than the expected survival. We started to believe in this technology.”
Dr. Vymazal, the first external researcher to collaborate with Novocure on a clinical trial, went on to participate in both EF-11 and EF-14, a phase 3 pivotal trial in newly diagnosed GBM. He continues to conduct research on Tumor Treating Fields today. Dr. Vymazal said he feels lucky that he connected with Novocure more than 15 years ago.
“This is one of my life achievements,” he said. “We are very proud that we are the first institution to hold a clinical trial with Tumor Treating Fields. I am very happy and very satisfied that I can share our experience with this technology all over the world. I’m extremely happy that I have helped some patients.”