Galvano- or Electrochemical Tumor Therapy (ECT)

St. Georg Hospital uses this form of therapy since 1987. To create a standing electrical field needles are inserted directly into the tumor, or electrodes are placed on the top of the cancerous area. The electrical field changes the pH-value and the natural electrical charge of the tumor tissue. This disturbs the essential life-processes of the tumor cells and causes them to die.

Physico-chemical principles of ECT

Once a direct electric current is given to the electrodes, the various chemo-electrical processes change the pH and the electrical charge of the tumor tissue. A depolarization of the cell membranes takes place so that the metabolic functions (electrolyte pumps, nutrient pumps, etc.) are disrupted. Thus, important life processes are interrupted in the cancer cells, which can lead to the death of these cells. Tumor tissue has a much lower electrical resistance than healthy tissue, so the current flow is concentrated mainly on the malignant tissue in order to enable a targeted destruction of this malignant tissue. The destroyed malignant tissue is eliminated by the body’s breakdown processes. It is possible that, then, immunization occurs, i.e., that the immune system can recognize and fight other cancer cells within the body. After successful use of Galvano therapy follows a healing process of the treated tumor area with scar formation.

For which types of tumors is ECT used?

The ECT is suitable for all superficial and deeper tumors and metastases, which are accessible by needle electrodes.
Tumors that particularly lend themselves for this therapy are:

  • breast cancer
  • tumors of the ear, nose and throat, in particular recurrence after radiotherapy and chemotherapy
  • gynecological, urological carcinomas and soft tissue tumors
  • skin cancers, such as basal and squamous cell carcinoma, melanomas, spinocellular carcinoma

How is ECT performed?

The treatment is usually performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting. Depending on tumor size there are two or more electrodes needed that as thin needles are introduced through the skin into the tumor. The electrodes should have no greater distance than 1.5 cm (0.6 inches). The total amount of electricity required is at least 35 coulomb/ml tumor tissue, and in general up to 90 coulombs/ml is used.  During the treatment there is a slight pressure pain or a slight tingling sensation in the treated area. After the therapy patients only rarely have pain because the direct current flowing through the tissue causes long-lasting pain relief by inhibiting the activity of sensory nerve fibers. The destruction of the cancerous tissue leads to an inflammatory reaction, but this regresses after a few days. By increased phagocyte activity, the cancerous tissue is reduced and eliminated from the body in a natural way and replaced by scar tissue.

A special form of Galvano therapy is iontophoresis (the combination with cytostatic drugs)
Most cytostatic substances are cationic (positively charged), which when inserted onto the anode in an electrical field move through tumorous tissue toward the cathodes. This process is called iontophoresis. This way, the cytostatics can be introduced straight into the tumorous tissue and simultaneously distributed, much better than with the use of systemic chemotherapy or local cytostatic perfusion. Especially suitable for the iontophoresis are hollow organs such as bladder, esophagus, stomach and rectum. By the current, the membrane potentials are altered in a way that the cells open up and absorb, more than usual, the cytostatics. Moreover, the latter unfolds a higher activity in the acidic environment of the anode. This means that by some localized recurrence, no longer treatable with surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, ECT can be used.