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ELECTROCHEMOTHERAPY

Electrochemotherapy, enables the direct delivery of chemotherapy drugs into the cancer tissue.

WHAT IS ELECTROCHEMOTHERAPY?

Cancer on a big scale, in skin and tissues underneath is very hard to detect and treat. radiotherapy is somewhat effective on these types of tumors but the success rate is low. Novel technologies contribute greatly in the treatment of these types of cancers. Electrochemotherapy is one of those.

Electrochemotherapy, enables the direct delivery of chemotherapy drugs into the cancer tissue (1,2). Two procedures are combined in this treatment:

  1. First, an injection is made either intravenously or directly into the cancer tissue.
  2. Second, an electrical pulse is applied.

A special probe is used to direct the pulse onto the surface of the tumor. This pulse creates holes by changing the structure of the armoured cell membranes of the cancer tissue. The structural change is called as electroporation. This technique increases the permeability of the cell membranes, allowing the chemotherapy drugs to penetrate more into the cancer tissues, thus increasing the efficiency of treatment.

On what types of cancer, electrochemotherapy can be used?

Electrochemotherapy is used on the tumors in skin and soft tissues underneath.

Which types of cancer can be treated with electrochemotherapy?

The ones that first emerge from skin or spread to skin:

  • Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Kaposi sarcoma
  • Breast cancer, spread to the skin
  • Head and neck cancers, spread to the skin
  • Soft tissue sarcoma

What are the details of the procedure?

Some patients can be treated on their feet whereas others might have to rest for a night at the hospital.

Chemotherapy:

  • The transference of the drugs into the cancer tissues (intratumoral injection)
  • The transference of the drugs into the blood stream (intravenous injection)

Injected drugs are cisplatin or bleomycin. Dosages and side effects are usually lower than the ones used in cancer treatment. The reason for this is the fact that the electrical pulses create holes on the tumor walls which enables for a more efficient transfer of drugs (1,2), in return lowering the dosage and the side effects.

Local or general anesthesia is applied according to the amount and size of the tumors and the electrical pulses, to comfort the patient.

If more than a few tumors are going to be treated, general anesthesia might be necessary.

The electrical pulse is generated by a specialized medical equipment and transfered by a pen sized probe. The probe has an electrode which directs the electrical pulse to the surface of the tumor.

The procedure takes 10 to 60 minutes, depending on the amount and size of the tumors.

    What is the success rate?

    According to a research involving 376 patients, half had their tumors cleared and 88 percent of all patients responded well to the treatment.

    What are the side effects?

    The most common side effect is the pain in the area of application, where the electrode had a contact with the skin. The pain is usually mild and lasts for a few days. Painkillers are used when necessary. Muscle spasms can be observed in some patients, which can be eliminated with adjustments to the treatment. Some spasms might interfere with respiration, triggering medical intervention. In rare occurrences, bleeding and infection at the application area can be observed.

    Especially depending in the amount and size of the tumors, in and around the head and neck area, can interfere with respiration, which can lead to an airway opening to be made (tracheostromy).

    Very rarely, life threatening situations and death can be seen.

    If you would like further information about oncology treatments, please don't hesisate to contact us.

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