Newnan, Ga. (May 31, 2013) – Newnan resident Gerhard Scheucher became one of the first patients in Georgia to undergo a new liver cancer procedure called irreversible electroporation (IRE) on Friday, May 24 at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. The relatively new procedure, which can be a safer alternative to the traditional approach of heating or freezing tumors, uses electrical shock energy around the tumor to kill cancer cells.
“The IRE procedure is the application of electrical shock energy in several probes that target the tumor at the cellular level,” said Steve Citron, M.D., who performed IRE on Scheucher. “The energy forces the tumor cells’ walls to open and kills the cancer cells without damaging bile ducts, blood vessels or other vital organs surrounding the liver.”
Liver cancer, which more commonly affects men than women, is expected to affect 30,640 people in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society. The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and unlike most other organs it receives blood from two sources. It is a vital organ to live.
“Gerhard does not have a family history of liver cancer, so we were shocked at the diagnosis,” said Katharina Scheucher, wife of the patient. “He’s experienced a host of other health problems, mostly heart-related, but liver cancer was recently found during a colon procedure to remove polyps.”
Scheucher’s initial CT (computed tomography) scan showed two tumors present on his liver. After undergoing stereotactic radiation - a traditional procedure using precise radiation beams to target the tumor - a follow-up CT scan showed a new tumor in addition to growth in the two existing ones. His cancer was multiplying fast.
“We decided to try a new approach to attack Gerhard’s cancer cells,” said Dr. Citron. “The key difference with IRE compared to other treatments is that the electrical fields produced by the probes do not produce extreme heat or cold. It will selectively damage the cancer cells without harming healthy tissues and structures nearby, allowing us to provide an extremely targeted treatment, even more so than the stereotactic radiation.”
After the cancer cells are killed, the body’s normal healing responses take over and regenerate new healthy cells absorbing the dead ones. The procedure, considered to be minimally-invasive, is performed under general anesthesia. Patients generally have a faster recovery time when compared to other treatments.
The IRE procedure is proving to be a viable alternative for patients who have tumors in difficult-to-treat locations, that may be near or touching a blood vessel, nerve or duct. Some patients with larger tumors may require more than one treatment as physicians target different parts of the lesion.
For more information on cancer services at Piedmont, visit piedmontcancer.org.