A PULSED APPROACH TO TREATING CANCER
Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is an innovative technique for the treatment of cutaneous and subcutaneous skin tumors in companion animals. This low invasive technique has a high success rate and can be used to treat many types of cancerous tumors.
ECT is successful because it allows for the enhanced delivery of traditional chemotherapy drugs directly to the tumor and surrounding area by combining intratumoral injections of a cytotoxic agent and the application of brief, high-voltage electric pulses.
This approach has been shown to not only eliminate tumors, but also reduce the reoccurrence rate in horses up to 97.9% and up to 87.5% in feline epidermal carcinomas.
Electrochemotherapy, currently employed around the world by veterinarians, is a simple treatment with a low side effect profile for horses, dogs, and cats who have cancerous cutaneous tumors.
How Electrochemotherapy is Used
in the Treatment of Tumors
- General anesthesia is administered to the animal to ensure the reduction of pain and discomfort and to facilitate the speed of the procedure, and the tumor is cleaned and disinfected
- Chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin (1 mg/ml) or bleomycin (1,000 IU/ml) are injected either intravenously or intratumorally in linear retro tracing injections every 6 millimeters
- Electric pulses are applied via the device at a rate of 8 pulses of 100 µs every 2 ms directly to the tumor and up to a 1-centimeter margin around the tumor
Electrochemotherapy can be used as adjuvant treatment to remove tumors, neoadjuvant treatment to facilitate the surgery, and as palliative treatment to improve the quality of life of an animal.
How Electrochemotherapy Works
to Destroy Cancerous Tumors
After the delivery of non-permeant or low-permeant cytotoxic drugs around the cell, the short yet high-intensity electric pulses or fields temporarily destabilize the cell’s membrane, making it transiently permeable to the surrounding chemotherapy drugs.
Once the field is turned off, the pores in the membrane reseal, trapping the drugs inside the cell. This approach increases the absorption of drug by up to a thousand-fold more than would be expected from routine intravenous (IV) administration
Treated animals may develop local side effects such as edema or necrosis, which can be treated by NSAIDS, but typically show no decrease in their overall condition as healthy scar tissue gradually replaces the tumor lesion.
It is suggested to perform follow up visits every two weeks during the recovery period, and the treatment can be repeated without exceeding the toxicity threshold.
Electrochemotherapy was successfully used in more than 4,000 animals worldwide in 2015.
Types of Tumors Successfully Treated
The following cancer and tumor types have been identified as treatable with ECT by researchers at NC State University. All of these, if left untreated, could be fatal.
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Soft tissue sarcomas
- Feline injection-site sarcoma
- Localized cutaneous lymphoma in dogs or cats
- Plasmocytic tumors
- Low to intermediate grade mast cell tumors
- Perianal and rectal tumors
- Sarcoid and squamous cell carcinoma in horses
- Superficial tumors on exotics (small mammals, birds, and zoo animals)
- Some internal tumors – tracheal and esophageal (on a case-by-case and location basis)