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Israeli plastic surgeons perform innovative skin cancer treatment

An improved way to treat skin cancer with fewer side effects was carried out for the first time in Israel by plastic surgeons and oncologists at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center (SZMC). 

The technique involves electrochemotherapy that combines the introduction of low-dose chemotherapy directly into the tumor or through the vein, along with damage to the cellular membrane of the tumor cells by an electric current delivered in a targeted manner to the tumor tissue. This makes possible the selective introduction of chemotherapy into the tumor.

The resulting synergistic effect, the team said, improves the effectiveness of the treatment and reduces the side effects. This treatment has shown effectiveness in clinical studies in the field and is used in Europe in about 200 different centers. So far, the technique has not been performed here, but last week the first two treatments were performed at SZMC.

Dr. Yoav Gronovich, director of the plastic surgery department, and Prof. Nir Peled, director of the oncology unit, advocated bringing the treatment to the hospital. Dr. Ido Lisi, a senior doctor in Gronovitch’s department, learned the treatment in Italy, and in collaboration with Dr. Hadar Dressler, a senior oncologist, prepared the appropriate treatment protocol and performed the first treatments.

The treatment is intended for a wide variety of skin cancer tumors including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma with local cutaneous/subcutaneous recurrence, Kaposi’s sarcoma (caused by a virus called the human herpesvirus 8), breast cancer with local cutaneous/subcutaneous recurrence, a metastatic/spreading tumor in the liver or pancreas, metastatic bone tumor and more.

A 3D immunofluorescent image of melanoma cells (magenta) infected with bacteria (turquoise); cell nuclei are blue (credit: WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE)

Surgical removal and reaching free margins from the benign tumor is the first line of treatment with the lowest chances of recurrence, but in cases where surgery is not possible, treatment is a safe and effective solution with a good aesthetic and functional result, they said.

‘important and exciting news for patients’

“From today we will be able to provide patients with cancerous skin tumors with treatment that improves their health and quality of life and allows them to receive effective treatment with fewer side effects,” Gronovich commented. “This is important and exciting news for patients who have to face the difficult period of treatment.

“Until today, the accepted treatments were surgery or radiation in non-surgical cases. The current treatment confirms tumor-targeted treatment in cases of complex multiple tumors or for patients who for medical reasons are not suitable for surgery. The risks are minimal and include a reaction to chemotherapy.”

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