High-Voltage Electrical Pulses in Oncology: Irreversible Electroporation, Electrochemotherapy, Gene Electrotransfer, Electrofusion, and Electroimmunotherapy

Bart Geboers, Hester J Scheffer, Philip M Graybill, Alette H Ruarus, Sanne Nieuwenhuizen, Robbert S Puijk, Petrousjka M van den Tol, Rafael V Davalos, Boris Rubinsky, Tanja D de Gruijl, Damijan Miklavčič, Martijn R Meijerink

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


This review summarizes the use of high-voltage electrical pulses (HVEPs) in clinical oncology to treat solid tumors with irreversible electroporation (IRE) and electrochemotherapy (ECT). HVEPs increase the membrane permeability of cells, a phenomenon known as electroporation. Unlike alternative ablative therapies, electroporation does not affect the structural integrity of surrounding tissue, thereby enabling tumors in the vicinity of vital structures to be treated. IRE uses HVEPs to cause cell death by inducing membrane disruption, and it is primarily used as a radical ablative therapy in the treatment of soft-tissue tumors in the liver, kidney, prostate, and pancreas. ECT uses HVEPs to transiently increase membrane permeability, enhancing cellular cytotoxic drug uptake in tumors. IRE and ECT show immunogenic effects that could be augmented when combined with immunomodulatory drugs, a combination therapy the authors term electroimmunotherapy. Additional electroporation-based technologies that may reach clinical importance, such as gene electrotransfer, electrofusion, and electroimmunotherapy, are concisely reviewed. HVEPs represent a substantial advancement in cancer research, and continued improvement and implementation of these presented technologies will require close collaboration between engineers, interventional radiologists, medical oncologists, and immuno-oncologists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-272
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

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