Electrochemotherapy allows chemotherapy drugs that normally cannot pass through the cell membrane to reach the cancerous cells. Electrochemotherapy is preferred by physicians in many cases due to its short treatment time, low doses of drugs, no systemic side effects, additional gains such as activating the immune system and high success rate.
In electrochemotherapy, the permeability of cancerous cells is increased by using electric current in order for chemotherapy drugs to reach directly into cancerous cells. Chemotherapy drugs, which normally cannot pass through the cell membrane, can reach cancerous cells with this method. In this process, the permeability of the cell membrane is increased for a short period of time by applying instantaneous and strong electric currents locally to the target tissues and the absorption of the chemotherapy drugs given during this period is performed.
Electrochemotherapy has two other important mechanisms besides increasing intracellular drug accumulation. The blood circulation in the tumour slows down in the area where electrochemotherapy is applied, so that the remaining cancerous cells die over time due to lack of nutrients. The other benefit is that the immune system is activated by the destruction of the remains of cancerous cells by healthy neighbouring cells. As the immune system recognises the cancerous cells, the body will fight more effectively to prevent metastasis.
In veterinary medicine, electrochemotherapy is mostly used for tumours located on or under the skin. It can also be used during or after surgery for tumours that cannot be completely removed from the body due to their location. Some types of cancer that do not respond to chemotherapy can be treated with electrochemotherapy. Electrochemotherapy can also be repeated safely in cases of local metastasis.
In electrochemotherapy applications, chemotherapy drugs are administered directly into the tumour or intravenously. Electrochemotherapy usually requires a maximum of 3 cycles. The interval between applications is 2-4 weeks. Each application lasts about 20 minutes, during which the patient is anaesthetised. The patient can be discharged after recovery and further controls are provided.
Redness, swelling and tissue loss can be observed as local side effects in areas where electrochemotherapy is applied. These wounds are healed within a few weeks with the help of medical bandages and supportive medications if necessary, and healthy tissues replace damaged tissues over time. Since electrochemotherapy is applied directly to the cancerous area and the chemotherapy doses used are very low, no systemic side effects are expected, and no chemotherapy-related damage is observed in healthy tissues.
When planning cancer treatment for pets, the oncologist takes many factors into consideration. These factors include the location and characteristics of the cancer, as well as the specific conditions of the animal and the conditions of the owner. Treatment usually consists of surgical removal of the tumour, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these. Depending on the location of the tumour, radiotherapy is often recommended in cases where it cannot be completely removed, but for patients who are unable to undergo radiotherapy for various reasons, electrochemotherapy is an ideal alternative.
In addition to the accessibility and financial burden of radiotherapy, some radiotherapy protocols may require anaesthesia, which may be risky for some patients. In such cases, the oncologist may refer the patient to electrochemotherapy.
Electrochemotherapy is preferred by physicians in many cases due to its short treatment duration, low doses of drugs, lack of systemic side effects, additional benefits such as activating the immune system and high success rate.