NanoKnife® is an ablation procedure that may provide a minimally invasive option for patients with inoperable or difficult-to-reach tumors, including tumors located near critical structures and major blood vessels. 

Instead of using extreme heat or cold, which could damage normal adjacent tissues, the NanoKnife System uses electrical currents to destroy cancerous tumors.

Other forms of ablation include microwave, radiofrequency and cryoablation. The NanoKnife System is similar in that it destroys soft tissue in the body, but it achieves the ablation through alternative modalities.

The first medical center in the triad to offer this procedure, Wake Forest Baptist Health surgeons use NanoKnife for pancreatic cancer patients with an inoperable tumor.

How NanoKnife Works

During a NanoKnife ablation procedure, a series of high voltage direct current electrical pulses are delivered between two electrodes placed within a target area of tissue.

The pulses produce an electric field which induces electroporation on cells within the target area. Electroporation is a technique in which an electrical field is applied to cells in order to increase the permeability of the cell membranes through the formation of nanoscale defects in the lipid bilayer.

After delivering a sufficient number of high voltage pulses, the cells surrounding the electrodes will be irreversibly damaged.

The procedure lasts from 2 to 6 hours, depending on if other procedures are performed during the same operation. After the procedure, the patient is typically hospitalized for 4 to 7 days. The overall risk for complications such as bleeding and infection are much less than traditional pancreatic surgery.

The NanoKnife System has been cleared by the FDA for the surgical ablation of soft tissue. This technology is currently under evaluation for treatment of pancreatic, liver and bile duct cancers.