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Prostate cancer can now be cured thanks to an innovative one-hour operation

[Oct 16, 2022: Emily Brown]

The 'game-changing' treatment uses electrical currents to destroy difficult to reach tumours. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Doctors in the UK hope that thousands of men with prostate cancer could be cured through an innovative hour-long operation.

The 'game-changing' treatment uses electrical currents to destroy difficult to reach tumours. The one-hour ‘Nanoknife’ operation has been described as ‘amazingly simple and quick’ by surgeons.

It uses a technique called irreversible electroporation to administer electrical pulses into the tumour, cutting open the membrane of the cells in a far less invasive manner than standard treatments, meaning there are fewer risks to surrounding organs and tissues.


The introduction of the therapy on the NHS comes as more than 50,000 cases of prostate cancer are detected each year. Treatments for the disease typically involve radiotherapy or surgery to remove the prostate, which can cause problems with urination, incontinence and loss of sexual function.

In comparison, Nanoknife offers a reduced chance of side effects and can be carried out more quickly, with the first six operations on the NHS carried out by surgeons at UCLH.


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Commenting on the treatment, per The Telegraph, consultant urologist Professor Mark Emberton said: ‘This offers us a new class of therapy – it’s a completely new way of destroying cells. The beauty of it is that it’s such a simple technique to train surgeons in. That makes it a game-changer.’

Emberton has said that Nanoknife has the potential to become a standard treatment for prostate cancer as opposed to having it only available in major specialist centres, as is currently the case with targeted treatments.


The professor added: ‘At times like this, when the NHS is under great pressure, day surgery avoids the need for overnight stays in hospital and means that we can use our operating theatres more efficiently.’

Neil Gershon was among the men to receive the treatment on the NHS, saying afterwards that he was drawn in by ‘the fact the chance of collateral damage is much reduced.’


Recalling his experience, he continued: ‘It was all done in a day which was great. When the general anaesthetic wore off, I felt absolutely fine, no pain at all. It couldn’t have gone better.’

Doctor using the Electroporation (NanoKnife) passing electric currents directly into the tumour via a needle to kill off cancerous cells. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Natalia Norori, the knowledge manager at Prostate Cancer UK, has said the therapy could ‘make a big difference to the quality of life of men diagnosed with localised prostate cancer’.


Nanoknife, manufactured by AngioDynamics, works by administering quick electrical pulses, using electrodes, around the tumour to kill the cancerous cells.

Consultant urologist Alistair Grey, who led the first operations using the technique, and his team. (CREDIT: Eddie Mulholland)

Guided by MRI scanning, the short pulses can be targeted to the right area, and surrounding healthy cells are left untouched and preserved, experts said.

Natalia Norori, the knowledge manager at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "Early studies suggest that treatments like Nanoknife could effectively treat prostate cancer while also reducing side-effects for men. This technology is one of many types of focal therapy on the horizon, which are designed to target the tumour more precisely and limit damage to the rest of the prostate."


This could make a big difference to the quality of life of men and it now needs to be tested in much larger trials to see whether it is as effective as traditional treatments.

The UCLH team has now carried out six procedures, with 70-year-old Neil Gershon among those receiving the treatment on the first day.

Norori added that following the operations at UCLH, Nanoknife now needs to be tested in larger trials.

For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by Emily Brown. Content may be edited for style and length.


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