Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Success of electrical treatment for tumor removal

A potential breakthrough in minimally invasive surgical removal of tumors has been demonstrated using an innovative technique involving microsecond electrical pulses that can punch permanent nanoscale holes in the membranes of targeted cells without harming adjacent healthy tissue.

The technique, known as irreversible electroporation (IRE), was developed by a research team headed by Boris Rubinsky, currently on leave as professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and now head of the Center for Biomedical Engineering in the Service of Humanity and Society at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The success of a large-scale study on pigs who were treated using the technique is described in the February issue of the journal Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment.

"I've been working in this area of minimally invasive surgery for 30 years now," said Rubinsky, lead author of the paper in the journal. "I truly think that this will be viewed as one of the most important advances in the treatment of tumors in years. I am very excited about the potential of this technique. It may have tremendous applications in many areas of medicine and surgery."

Rubinsky co-authored the paper with Dr. Gary Onik, director of surgical imaging at Florida Hospital Celebration Health. They founded the Oncobionic Company two years ago to commercialize IRE. Oncobionic is in the process of being sold to AngioDynamics, a New York-based manufacturer of medical devices for minimally invasive surgery.

It was first reported in the early 1970s that the application to cells of very fast electrical pulses – in the microsecond and millisecond range – creates an electrical field that causes nanoscale pores to open in the cell membrane (electroporation). But research since then has mainly focused on reversible electroporation, which uses voltages low enough to temporarily increase the cell membrane's permeability. The holes in the cell membrane created by reversible electroporation close up shortly after treatment, allowing the cell to survive.

“This concept of reversible electroporation really caught on in modern biotechnology, especially over the last decade," said Rubinsky. "It is used primarily to help get genes and drugs into cells (but is not effective in killing “target” cells directly). The field of irreversible electroporation was pretty much forgotten."

Irreversible electroporation uses electrical pulses that are slightly longer and stronger than reversible electroporation. With IRE, the holes in the cell membrane do not reseal, causing the cell to die. IRE utilizes a range of electrical current that causes permanent damage to cell membranes without generating heat and thermal damage.

The advantage to this, say the researchers, is that IRE overcomes the limitations of current minimally invasive surgical techniques that use extreme heat, such as hyperthermia or radiofrequency, or extreme cold, such as cryosurgery, to destroy tumorous cells. They point out that this type of temperature damage to cells also causes structural damage to proteins and the surrounding connective tissue. For liver cancer, for example, the bile duct is at risk for damage. For prostate cancer, the urethra and surrounding nerve tissue is often affected.

Irreversible electroporation, on the other hand, acts just on the targeted cell membrane, leaving collagen fibers and other vascular tissue structures intact. The researchers said that leaving the tissue's "scaffolding" in place in this manner allows healthy cells to regrow far more quickly than if everything in the region were destroyed.

In the new study, the researchers set out to demonstrate that the IRE technique could produce reliable and predictable results in a large animal model. They performed the IRE surgical technique on 14 healthy female pigs under general anesthesia, using the same procedures as if the patients were human.

They showed that selected cell membranes were destroyed, while untargeted adjacent tissue healed remarkably quickly. Although the tissue chosen for destruction in this study was healthy, the researchers found in a prior cell culture study that IRE effectively kills human liver cancer tissue.

A further chronic drawback of heat or cryo (cold) treatments for cancer is the difficulty in treating cells that are immediately adjacent to the blood vessels. Because blood maintains a relatively stable temperature, it actually transfers heat or cold away from a treatment area in an attempt to return the region to a normal temperature range. That means some cancerous cells might actually survive treatment.

"That counts for a lot of failures when treating liver cancers," said Onik. "With IRE, you can destroy cancerous cells right next to the blood vessels. It's a more complete treatment. In my clinical experience, this is about as good as it gets. We've been using other techniques for a long time. This provides significant improvements over other treatments."

"While we are obviously very excited about this advance in tumor removal, we are still in the early stages of our learning curve," Onik cautioned. "There is always the potential for unexpected results."

The IRE technology was cleared for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2006. Onik is scheduled to begin human clinical trials for IRE this summer.

Jerry Barach | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Laboratory study: Scientists from Cologne explore a new approach to prevent newborn epilepsies
24.11.2015 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)

nachricht U of T research sheds new light on mysterious fungus that has major health consequences
23.11.2015 | University of Toronto

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

Im Focus: Climate Change: Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic

AWI researchers’ unique 15-year observation series reveals how sensitive marine ecosystems in polar regions are to change

The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by...

Im Focus: Nanocarriers may carry new hope for brain cancer therapy

Berkeley Lab researchers develop nanoparticles that can carry therapeutics across the brain blood barrier

Glioblastoma multiforme, a cancer of the brain also known as "octopus tumors" because of the manner in which the cancer cells extend their tendrils into...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Siemens Healthcare introduces the Cios family of mobile C-arms

20.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Plant Defense as a Biotech Tool

25.11.2015 | Life Sciences

“move“ – on course for the mobility of the future

25.11.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Understanding a missing link in how antidepressants work

25.11.2015 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>