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'NanoKnife' Removes Cancerous Tumors, Without Surgery

10:39 PM, Jun 14, 2011   |    comments
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) -- Doctors use surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to wipe out as many malignant cells as possible. But when those options won't work, some specialists are using electrical pulses to wipe out hard-to-reach tumors.

Charles Rousell underwent a procedure to treat his cancerous cells using NanoKnife at Inova Alexandria Hospital.

"I've been very healthy. The last time I was hospitalized, I was 4-years-old," said Rousell.

Rousell thought he was healthy still. The Upper Marlboro retiree went to the doctor to have a simple callous removed on his foot, but a diagnosis of high blood pressure led doctors to do more tests, and eventually a very revealing CT-scan.

"The cat scan came back indicating that there was this tumor in my stomach, and it was large," said Rousell.

The growth was four centimeters to be exact. The 76-year-old was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to treat.  Surgery wasn't an option because the tumor was entangled in a web of arteries. And Rousell wasn't ready to undergo highly toxic chemotherapy, with little hope of a cure.

"All the reading indicated that it may prolong life for a period of time, but I wasn't concerned with life being prolonged unless I'm feeling good," said Rousell.

Rousell's wife kept digging and eventually found Dr. Sandeep Bagla, an interventional radiologist at Inova Alexandria.  He suggested NanoKnife, a unique cancer treatment for soft tissue tumors in the kidney, liver and even the pancreas. The NanoKnife actually involves no knife, or cutting, at all.

"We basically place the skinny 19-gauge electrodes right into the tumor and then these electrodes admit electrical pulses and kill the tumor cells. There are no open incisions or sutures," explains Dr. Bagla.

Dr. Bagla says NanoKnife is a highly-effective tool when a tumor is near vital structures in the body that could be easily damaged, especially to those patients that have few, if any, options.

"We were able to control the local tumor and since it involved the nearby arteries and the veins around the pancreas we were still able to spare those structures," says Dr. Bagla.

"The tumor showed a complete response; we are very happy with what we have seen so far," added Dr. Bagla.

Currently, there are no signs of Rousell's cancer. He underwent two procedures with NanoKnife. The first took 90% of the growth, and the other destroyed the last 10% of tumor. He'll be monitored to watch for any recurrence.  But for now, he's just enjoying life.

"It's a good feeling to think that at least you're on the road to recovery," says Rousell.

Recovery following the actual NanoKnife procedure usually takes a matter of days.  The electrical pulses are delivered through long needles that are inserted by interventional radiologists as they guide, step by step, where the electrodes are going. Afterwards, doctors say most patients only need a pain reliever like ibuprofen for minor discomfort.

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