Dr. Matthew Ballo has been a recognized for his innovative, forward-looking approach to radiation oncology.
He is the first in America to utilize Tumor Treating Fields, the first new treatment for mesothelioma approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in more than 15 years.
Ballo treated the first patient in September of 2019, using the noninvasive device that works by disrupting cancer cell division through low-voltage electric fields.
“We’re proud that West Cancer Center was the first to offer this therapy as part of combination treatment, giving another much-needed option to patients and their families,” Ballo said. “Many people with [malignant pleural mesothelioma] are not candidates for surgery, and approved nonsurgical treatments are very limited.”
At the Forefront of an Innovative Treatment
The Tumor Treating Fields device used for mesothelioma is officially known as NovoTTF-100. It is used in combination with chemotherapy and designed to inhibit tumor growth and possibly kill cancer cells while sparing the normal healthy cells alongside them.
The treatment was approved by the FDA in 2019 under the Humanitarian Device Exemption pathway, which is designed to encourage innovation in treating rare cancers affecting underserved patient populations.
Patients not eligible for surgery are typically treated with intravenous chemotherapy, which often comes with harsh side effects. Tumor Treating Fields, by contrast, has shown only minor side effects in earlier clinical trials.
The Oncologist published an article co-authored by Ballo earlier in 2019 that detailed the broad range of anti-tumor activity of Tumor Treating Fields across a range of solid malignancies, including mesothelioma.
Ballo also presented the findings in October at the Chinese Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology meeting in Shenzhen, China.
The FDA first approved the use of Tumor Treating Fields in 2015 for glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer. It is being studied today for several other diseases.
Expanding Radiation Oncology Research
Since joining the West Cancer Center in 2014, Ballo has played a major role in the expansion of the Radiation Oncology Program, which is part of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Under his leadership, the Research Program has focused on improvement of care for aging cancer patients; the rehabilitation of cancer patients before, during and after their diagnosis; and the development of new radiotherapy devices and algorithms.
Ballo worked previously at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he also did his clinical residency.
He completed his clinical internship at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Cleveland. He graduated from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.