Novel cancer ablation technology offers hope to patients

Cai Wenjun
Renji Hospital medics have used a "nano knife," a novel tumor ablation technique, on a patient with terminal pancreatic cancer prolonging their survival.
Cai Wenjun

Renji Hospital medics have used a nano knife, a novel tumor ablation technique, on a patient with terminal pancreatic cancer prolonging their survival.

A nano knife is irreversible electroporation, which uses nonthermal electric energy to irreversibly destabilize cell membranes, resulting in focused cell death.

Tumor ablation is an important measure in cancer treatments, which mainly target patients whose cancer cannot be surgically removed or who are too old or too weak to undergo surgery.

Different from common ablation techniques which usually involve heat and coldness, a nano knife uses the effect of an applied electric field to kill cancer cells. This achieves minimally invasive cancer ablation without damaging the surrounding vessels, nerves, and neighboring normal tissue.

Pancreatic cancer is called the king of cancer, as the pancreas is located very deep in the body with a complicated vessels and nerve network connecting other major organs like the gall bladder, stomach and liver, making it difficult to be identified in the early stages and easily invading nearby tissues and organs.

This patient was found to have a pancreatic problem two years ago, when it was believed benign. However, the tumor was found to have enlarged tissues intertwining with other major blood arteries recently. Follow-up pathological examination confirmed it was pancreatic cancer.

"Considering the patient's condition, we decided to introduce a nano knife to ablate the cancerous tissues," said Dr Wang Liwei, director of Renij's oncology department.

He said there is a rising number of pancreatic patients. and there are more young patients.

"Most pancreatic cancer patients are detected in terminal stage," Wang said. "About 80 percent have missed the opportunity for surgery upon detection. The current treatment only allows such patients to survive for nine months and the longest survival is only one year and a half,.

"Pancreatic cancer is the cancer with sixth leading mortality in China. Globally, it ranks number seven. In 2030, pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second leading death cause of cancer in the world.

"The treatment for pancreatic cancer involves surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted medication and immunotherapy. The Nano knife has promising effects with small injury, quick recovery and less complication. It is ideal for those with terminal stage who can't withstand surgery to prolong survival and improve life quality."

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