Electrochemotherapy of superficial tumors – Current status:: Basic principles, operating procedures, shared indications, and emerging applications

Luca G. Campana, Damijan Miklavčič, Giulia Bertino, Roberto Marconato, Sara Valpione, Ilaria Imarisio, Maria Vittoria Dieci, Elisa Granziera, Maja Cemazar, Mauro Alaibac, Gregor Sersa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Treatment of superficial tumors with electrochemotherapy (ECT) has shown a steep rise over the past decade and indications range from skin cancers to locally advanced or metastatic neoplasms. Based on reversible electroporation, which is a physical method to achieve transient tumor cell membrane permeabilization by means of short electric pulses, ECT increases cellular uptake of bleomycin and cisplatin and their cytotoxicity by 8,000- and 80-fold, respectively. Standard operating procedures were established in 2006 and updated in 2018. Ease of administration, patient tolerability, efficacy across histotypes, and repeatability are peculiar advantages, which make standard ECT (ie, ECT using fixed-geometry electrodes) a reliable option for controlling superficial tumor growth locally and preventing their morbidity. Consolidated indications include superficial metastatic melanoma, breast cancer, head and neck skin tumors, nonmelanoma skin cancers, and Kaposi sarcoma. In well-selected patients with oropharyngeal cancers, ECT ensures appreciable symptom control. Emerging applications include skin metastases from visceral or hematological malignancies, vulvar cancer, and some noncancerous skin lesions (keloids and capillary vascular malformations). Repeatability and integration with other oncologic therapies allow for consolidation of response and sustained tumor control. In this review, we present the basic principles of ECT, recently updated operating procedures, anesthesiological management, and provide a synthesis of the efficacy of standard ECT across histotypes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-191
Number of pages18
JournalSeminars in Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Bleomycin
  • Breast cancer
  • Electrochemotherapy
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Skin cancer


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