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NanoKnife Technology at Miami Valley Hospital

Nanoknife imageMiami Valley Hospital (MVH) has taken another major step forward in cancer treatment by offering the first NanoKnife IRE System in the State of Ohio.

The device targets tumors through a specialized ablation procedure that actually causes a tumor to kill itself off and be removed by the body’s own lymphatic system. The procedure is done through a series of needlelike probes with an electrical generator, a computer with a monitor and a couple of foot pedals to operate it. The electrical pulses poke multiple holes into a tumor’s cellular walls, causing it to die naturally and be routinely discarded by the body.

Perhaps the technology’s biggest advantage is that it allows doctors to completely excise primary tumors that until now were either inoperable or could only be partially removed through surgery because of its proximity to vital organs or blood vessels.

MVH Surgical oncologists and radiologists are extremely excited about the device, saying it strengthens their arsenal in the fight against cancer.

“This is a great tool for us since we treat so many difficult cancers,” said Dr. James Ouellette, DO, surgical oncologist. “There are times when we face tumors that we can’t completely remove. Sometimes, we make the choice to try to remove them, but when we do we almost always leave behind cells that cause the cancer to reoccur.”

Until now, cancer patients in the Miami Valley had to travel to Louisville to get such a treatment, but Dr. Ouellette was determined to change that. Earlier this year, he and his colleague, Dr. Shannon Kauffman, MD, interventional radiologist, took their own trip to Louisville to see how the NanoKnife worked. The trip confirmed the NanoKnife was something that MVH needed to stay ahead of the game in cancer treatment.

MVH was quick to see the technology’s advantage, and the hospital purchased the $300,000 device through funds from its foundation. The hospital never had to second-guess its commitment, since Dr. Ouellette was waiting in the wings to perform his first procedure with the NanoKnife just a few days after its arrival.

His first patient had suffered from reoccurring cancer and was currently battling a tumor that was partially embedded into the muscles of his pelvis. The tumor’s location made it difficult for Dr. Ouellette to fully remove all of the cancer cells through traditional ablation or surgical procedures. However, by using the NanoKnife Dr. Ouellette was able to ablate the cells without killing off any vital tissue to completely treat the tumor.

The procedure is the first of many to come. MVH estimates it will do at least 30 procedures with the NanoKnife over the next 12 months. A handful of those procedures will be on patients Dr. Ouellette saw six months ago when this technology was not available, but who now are perfect candidates for the NanoKnife.

Dr. Ouellette is already part of a unique cancer care team that is hard to find anywhere else in the Miami Valley. He, along with four other doctors, have come together to form a liver cancer clinic at MVH’s south campus where they treat cancer patients in a comprehensive way. There, patients meet with surgical oncologists and radiologist under one roof and often emerge from their appointments with a solid plan of action.

“Traditionally, cancer patients meet with a surgeon first and may not meet with a radiologist until the very end,” Dr. Ouellette said. “In our clinic, however, patients are initially seen through the lenses of both options – surgery and radiology – and from there a complete plan is created with the patient and his referring physicians. As a result, patients walk out filled with confidence rather than more questions.”

The NanoKnife is not the only tool that gives the clinic an edge over its competition. In June, 2010, the clinic’s interventional radiologists became the first in the region to begin using a new product to help fight primary and metastatic liver tumors. The product, called SIR-Spheres microspheres, allows radiologists to deliver millions of small resin beads loaded with high dose radiation (called yttrium 90) directly to the tumors in a process called radioembolization. The microspheres selectively target liver tumors with a dose of internal radiation up to 40 times higher than conventional radiotherapy while sparing healthy tissue.

“It’s all part of bringing the best options to our patients here in the Miami Valley,” said Dr. Ouellette. “We believe we have one of the best teams to help patients fight their battle and we’re as equally committed to finding the best tools to get it done.”

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