Electrochemotherapy for Pancreatic Tumors that Cannot Be Surgically Removed

Credit: Howard Stanbury; Flickr
Credit: Howard Stanbury; Flickr
How effective is the combination of standard chemotherapy and a minimally invasive surgical technique against locally advanced pancreatic cancer?

Researchers are testing standard chemotherapy and electroporation in a clinical trial. They are looking to see if this pairing can prevent the further spread of pancreatic cancer in patients that do not qualify for traditional surgery.

What is Irreversible Electroporation?

Irreversible electroporation, or IRE, is a method of removing body tissue using high-energy pulses of electrical current. The electrical pulses create permanent pores in the membranes of the cells of the tissue. This causes the cells to die. Researchers also believe that the pores allow more of the chemotherapy drugs to enter the cells, making treatment more effective.

A person undergoing this treatment receives a general anesthetic and electrode needles are inserted around the tumor. Electrical pulses then move between the needles for a specific amount of time. If the technique is needed to treat cancer in more than one location, the needles are moved and replaced, until all areas indicated have undergone IRE treatment.

There are a number of advantages to IRE. It does not generate a lot of heat, so the side effects seen with heat-based techniques (such as inflammation) do not occur. IRE is a very precise technique, so it can be used to target tumors without affecting the surrounding veins, ducts, and nerves. This gives IRE great potential for treating tumors that involve those tissues.

The Advantages of Electrochemotherapy

All participants in this trial will first undergo electroporation. After that treatment is completed, chemotherapy with the combination of gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel will begin. Gemcitabine is converted into two metabolites that cause cell death. One reduces the number of proteins available to make DNA; the other shortens the DNA strands. Nab-paclitaxel inhibits cell division and promotes cell death.

Researchers are looking at best-tolerated dose of electroporation, and then the effectiveness of the overall treatment. Participants will have follow-up scans and tests to look at their tumors, and whether the cancer has spread.

We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website Clinicaltrials.gov provides more details about this trial as well as many others. You can visit the Clinical Trials Finder for a listing of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.

image_printPrint Page

Conversation