Maine Veterinary Medical Center is excited to announce the addition of electrochemotherapy as a new modality for treating cancer in cats in dogs. This treatment is performed on an outpatient basis, usually consisting of two to three treatments.


Electrochemotherapy is a new and exciting therapy to treat local disease. This treatment option involves the use of small doses of systemic and/or intralesional chemotherapy followed by electric pulses applied to the tumor or tumor bed. This treatment option utilizes a type of chemotherapy known to not have negative systemic side effects to the gastrointestinal system or bone marrow. It also often utilizes intralesional chemotherapy. Intralesional chemotherapy is injected directly into the tumor or tumor bed, helping to minimize potential systemic side effects. Electric pulses, in turn, allow the pores of the cells to open, allowing higher doses of chemotherapy to be absorbed into the cancer cells. This electroporation, as it is called, makes the cells much more efficient at absorbing chemotherapy.  


This treatment is ideally used post-operatively though some non-resectable/bulky tumors are also responsive to electrochemotherapy. When possible, the bulk of the tumor will be removed surgically prior to administering electrochemotherapy. Electrochemotherapy will be performed on incompletely excised tumors, in which clean margins were not achieved. In these cases there may be cancer cells left behind risking chance of tumor regrowth. Radiation therapy is considered the standard of care for the majority of incompletely excised tumors, however, electrochemotherapy offers a more cost effective, less intense (two to three treatments locally at MVMC versus 16-18 treatements in Massuchusetts), and better tolerated (minimal to no side effects) alternative. It may provide outcomes that are comparable to traditional radiation therapy in some cases.


Tumor types which have shown promise for this treatment include mammary tumors in cats and dogs, mast cell tumors, vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas in cats, soft tissue sarcomas in dogs, localized lymphoma, solar-induced squamous cell carcinoma in cats and papillomas. Studies performed analyzing the efficacy of electrochemotherapy in treating these types of tumors have shown success, some even rivaling the outcomes seen with radiation therapy.


There is much we have yet to learn about cancer and the treatment of these tumors is constantly changing. We are glad to have one more tool available to treat cancer in our beloved patients.

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