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Prostate Cancer Treatments – Nanoknife

Professor Mark Emberton
Overview by Professor Mark Emberton
Professor of Interventional Oncology, Division of Surgery, and Dean of UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences University College Hospital London, NHS Trust

Nanoknife, also referred to as irreversible electroporation therapy for prostate cancer, is a focal technique used in the treatment of prostate cancer. Used for hard-to-reach tumours, Nanoknife is minimally invasive and is often used in the treatment of tumours that would otherwise have been deemed unreachable and inoperable and therefore unsuitable for HIFU for example.

In irreversible electroporation, quick electrical pulses are administered, with the use of electrodes, around and into the tumour to kill cancerous cells. The name “nanoknife” is derived from the fact that these electrical pulses effectively cut open the cells’ membrane.

Prostate cancer can be targeted with ultra-precision, posing fewer risks to surrounding organs and healthy tissue. Guided by MRI scanning, the short electrical pulses can be administered to exactly the right area.

How does Nanoknife treatment work?

The cutting of the cell’s membrane is what induces the process of apoptosis, the death of cells. Nanoknife treatment is cutting-edge as the pulses used are only short and therefore do not generate any heat. This leaves surrounding healthy cells untouched and preserved. The healthy cells will continue to grow without any issues and will replace the dead cells resulting from nanoknife procedures.

Nanoknife Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Nanoknife is especially useful in the treatment of prostate cancer as it can help maintain the prostate’s important functions, whilst attacking the cancerous cells.

Because the procedure is not invasive, recovery time is generally short and limited to a couple of days. Patients can expect to experience minimal to no side effects at all.

Advantages of Nanoknife Treatment for Prostate Cancer:

  • Minimally invasive procedure requiring a short hospital stay
  • Short recuperation period (usually a couple of days)
  • Painless procedure with minimal to no side effects
  • Able to treat tumours previously difficult to treat with minimally invasive procedures or in salvage cases
  • The procedure can be repeated

Disadvantages of Nanoknife – irreversible  electroporation therapy for prostate cancer :

  • Catheter required for a few days
  • Some men may be infertile due to decreased/absent ejaculatory fluid
  • No long-term data available on side-effects and outcomes
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