NanoKnife is a device which implements technology called irreversible electroporation to electrically target and kill specific tumor cells. The “NanoKnife” is actually an electric field – that can be precisely targeted to “poke” tiny holes in tumor cells, while not affecting adjacent organs. The ultra-precision of the NanoKnife allows physicians to treat tumors that in the past would have been difficult or impossible for surgeons to operate on because of their location.
The NanoKnife delivers quick bursts of energy through a set of electrodes inserted into and around the tumor. The pulses can last up to 100 microseconds and create an electrical field of up to 3000 volts per centimeter. A cell within range of the electric field will form pores in its fatty membrane, allowing ions to rush through. When exposed to higher voltages and longer pulse duration, however, the pores in the cell membrane remain open and cause the cell to initiate a programmed suicide, known as apoptosis.
One of the great strengths of the NanoKnife is it uses electricity to open little holes in the cell membranes – so every cell in the treatment area dies. It doesn’t alter or destroy adjacent tissue. So after the treatment, adjacent, non-cancerous cells migrate in and replace the dead cancer cells. There is evidence that the healthy cells will grow back and regenerate – instead of leaving a hole in the organ. This helps the organ to continue to function.
The new method can be used with cancers in various parts of the body, such as the kidneys, the prostate, the liver, the lungs, pancreas and lymph nodes. In sensitive cases – like the prostate –the NanoKnife will be able to preserve a patient’s functions, including (urinary) continence and nerves involved in sexual functions. It can deactivate prostate cancer without damaging nerves or the urethra – which would be a huge breakthrough. The position of the tumor (or tumors) is ascertained by the initial imaging technology, usually CT, MR or U/S (ultrasound). Pre NanoKnife procedure, a scan is done to verify the position of the tumor, check for any changes since the last image, etc… The NanoKnife electrodes are then inserted & their positions are checked by either CT or U/S. The NanoKnife is activated (which takes only several seconds per application) & the tumor is revisualised by CT or U/S because the success of the NanoKnife procedure can be verified instantly because the tumor immediately looks different.
Through these minimally-invasive techniques, will be able to help many patients with limited options, such as patients who have already had surgery and chemotherapy but have had recurrences of cancer. The NanoKnife is a tool which can used to treat advanced cancer — such as in a patient who cannot have another surgery or who has had all the chemotherapy they can have. NanoKnife can be used to keep the tumors down, to ‘de-bulk the tumors and keep them small and shrunken. In many cases of advanced cancer, the patient’s life expectancy can be increased.
NanoKnife can be an effective treatment option for patients who have tumors less than five centimeters that are inoperable or when radiation therapy is not advised. So briefly concluding the benefits of NanoKnife:
- Physicians can treat inoperable tumors
- Patients undergo general anesthesia and experience little pain following the procedure.
- Treatment requires only a brief hospital stay. Patients are typically discharged from the hospital the day following the procedure.
- With few side effects or scarring, the procedure can be repeated if new lesions develop.