Irreversible electroporation (IRE) uses short, repetitive, non-thermal high-energy pulses of electricity to destroy cancer cells. The brand name for IRE is called NanoKnife. It has been in practise since 2008 for the treatment of some types of cancers.
NanoKnife is different from other treatments like CyberKnife and traditional surgery, as it can be done quickly and painlessly, and success can be evaluated much more quickly.
One of age largest unmet needs in cancer that IRE has been particularly useful, is in locally advanced (stage III) pancreatic cancer.
Hence it is recommended in patients who have inoperable pancreatic cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body (known as locally advanced pancreatic cancer). Recent studies have demonstrated its safety with encouraging improvement in overall survival.
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In this procedure electrodes (needles) are inserted through the skin directly into and around the tumour. It could sometimes be an open or keyhole surgery. Then short pulses of electricity fire between the needle for several minutes. The electrodes may be repositioned and the process repeated until the whole tumour and a small area of surrounding tissue is treated.
These pulses of electricity destroy the tumour leaving the surrounding tissue, veins, nerves and ducts unaffected. Healthy cells and tissue can then from back and regenerate within the area.
This procedure is carried out under general anaesthesia and typically lats from 2-4 hours. Following the procedure, the patient may be kept in hospital overnight for observation and discharged the following day. The patient may also be given antibiotics before and after the procedure to prevent infections.
A process called ‘cardiac synchronisation’ is used alongside IRE treatment; to prevent electrical pulses causing problems with a patients heartbeat.