Safety and feasibility of electrochemotherapy in patients with unresectable colorectal liver metastases: A pilot study

Int J Surg. 2017 Aug:44:26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2017.06.033. Epub 2017 Jun 15.


Background and objectives: Electrochemotherapy is a novel ablation technique combining chemotherapeutic agents with reversible cell membrane electroporation. Previous experiences have shown its efficacy for cutaneous tumors. Its application for deep-seated malignancies is under investigation. We performed a prospective, pilot study to evaluate the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of intraoperative electrochemotherapy for otherwise unresectable colorectal liver metastases.

Methods: Electrochemotherapy with bleomycin was combined with open liver resection and performed with linear or hexagonal needle electrodes according to an individualized pretreatment plan. The primary endpoints were: feasibility, as ratio of completed to planned treatments; safety, and efficacy, as per response assessed at 30 days with MRI and according to RECIST. The secondary endpoint was overall and progression-free survival at month 6.

Results: A total of 9 colorectal liver metastases were treated in 5 patients with 20 electrode applications. No intraoperative complications were observed. At day 30, complete response was 55.5% and stable disease 45.5%. All (5) patients reached a 6 months overall survival, and 4 out of 5 patients had 6 months progression free survival.

Conclusions: Electrochemotherapy is a feasible and safe adjunct to open surgery for treatment of unresectable colorectal liver metastases. Larger studies and longer follow-ups are favored to better define its role in the treatment of secondary liver malignancies.

Keywords: Colorectal liver metastases; Electrochemotherapy; Liver; Outcome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bleomycin / therapeutic use*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Electrochemotherapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Hepatectomy
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Bleomycin