St. David's HealthCare October 24, 2014

This year, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center became the first hospital in Austin to acquire and use the NanoKnife® System for the surgical ablation of soft tissue in select patients with pancreatic, liver and bile duct cancer, as well as small bowel cancers. The NanoKnife System is a new treatment option for patients with difficult-to-reach tumors, particularly those located near critical structures and surrounding major blood vessels, arteries and nerves. It is the first ablation system to use low-energy electrical pulses believed to permanently open pores in cell membranes, killing the cells in the targeted tissues without damaging the surrounding structures.

“This new technology allows us to treat patients with tumors that may otherwise be inoperable,” Shaun McKenzie, M.D., F.A.C.S., surgical oncologist at St. David's South Austin Medical Center, said. “Using the NanoKnife System, we can target and destroy specific cells, significantly improving medical outcomes for patients with these complex gastrointestinal cancers.”

The NanoKnife System uses a rapid series of direct, high-voltage, low-energy currents to create defects, or pores, in cell membranes, causing the cell to die. This process is known as irreversible electroporation. The electrical pulses are delivered through several needle-like probes placed into or around the targeted tissue under CT (computerized tomography) or ultrasound guidance.

This system is a generation apart from other ablation modalities, which use extreme heat or cold, such as microwave energy, radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation. Unlike these ablative modalities, the NanoKnife System does not rely on extreme heat or cold; therefore, it poses little risk of injury to critical blood vessel structures.

Physicians have also experienced challenges with the surgical removal of these tumors because they are unable to provide clear margins near blood vessels. The NanoKnife System also allows for the destruction of residual tissue around major blood vessels during the surgical removal of the main tumor, which can improve clearance of the tumor margins.

KVUE-TV recently detailed how the NanoKnife System works to treat patients with hard-to-reach or dangerous tumors. View the story here.