January 27, 2017 • 2 Min

Electrical Pulses to Destroy Pancreatic Cancer Cells

Image of a yellow and gold metal circle with wires across the center, in an abstract geometic pattern.

james; Flickr

How effective is a minimally invasive surgical technique against locally advanced pancreatic cancer that cannot be removed by traditional surgery?

A clinical trial is taking a closer look at how the NanoKnife irreversible electroporation (IRE) system can be used to treat pancreatic cancer that cannot be surgically removed and is contained within the pancreas.

What is IRE?

Irreversible electroporation is a method of removing body tissue using high-energy pulses of electricity. The electrical pulses create permanent pores in the membranes of the cells of the tissue. This causes the cells to die. A person undergoing this treatment has 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, 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 (inflammation) do not occur. IRE does not affect the surrounding veins, ducts, and nerves, so it has great potential use on tumors that involve those tissues.

The NanoKnife Trial

All participants in this trial will undergo NanoKnife IRE surgery on their tumors. They will then be followed for the 30 days after surgery for short-term side effects, such as infection or pain. After that patients will be checked every three months to see if there are longer-term side effects and to see if the cancer has not spread beyond the IRE-treated area.

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

To learn more about NanoKnife surgery, read the story “Going Place-to-Place to Find the Treatments I Wanted.”

What new treatments and clinical trials are available to me?

Learn more