Use of irreversible electroporation (IRE) doubles the survival time for patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer say researchers at the University of Louisville in a paper in the September edition of the Annals of Surgery.

“The appropriate and precise use of IRE in appropriately selected patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer can result in a median overall survival close to 24 months, which is nearly double the survival rate with the best new chemotherapy and chemo-radiotherapy,” said Robert Martin, M.D., Ph.D., director of surgical oncology at UofL.

IRE uses ultra-short but strong electrical fields to create holes in cell membranes, ultimately leading to cell death. The main use of IRE lies in tumor removal in regions where precision and conservation of the basic cellular matrix, blood flow and nerves are of importance.

In the study, 200 patients at six sites throughout the United States received IRE following chemotherapy. The patients were followed for up to seven years following their initial diagnosis and initiation of treatment. The average survival time for patients was close to two years.

IRE is commonly performed as an open surgery with an incision of about six to eight centimeters. This allows for better visualization for probe placement, as well as combined tumor removal as dictated for individual patients. This commonly requires a five- to seven-day hospital stay and a two- to three-week recovery for the patient to get back to their baseline quality of life

Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers and is expected to climb from the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States to the second by 2020. Ninety four percent of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis, and 74 percent of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.

“This study demonstrates that IRE, in conjunction with standard-of-care, may substantially prolong the survival rates of patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer,” Martin said. “While additional research is needed, ablation may represent an addition to the current standard of care for Stage III pancreatic cancer patients whose only treatment options until now have been chemotherapy or a combination of chemo-radiation therapy.”

Patients in the study were seen at UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the Cleveland Clinic, Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Swedish Medical Center in Denver and Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta.

Martin initially reported these finding at the American Surgical Association annual meeting in April 2015.

Source: University of Louisville