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Electronic Pulses Shown to Induce Cancer Immune Response

Electricity illustration

(Avtar Kamani, Pixabay)

11 November 2016. A medical device company presented results of preclinical studies showing its drug-free electronic pulse technology encourages the immune system to kill and clear cancer cells. Pulse Biosciences Inc. in Burlingame, California reported on three studies involving its technology at a meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer now underway in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Pulse Biosciences applies electronic impulses to penetrate cell walls to encourage tumor cell death and induce a response from the immune system to kill more tumor cells. The company’s technology, based on pioneering research at Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School, uses very fast electronic impulses of about 100 nanoseconds, but also in high voltages to penetrate cell walls and disrupt the cell’s functions. Because of the impulses’ high speed, says the company, the thousands of volts applied in the charges affect only the targeted cells, not surrounding cells or tissue.

The technology — which the company calls nano-pulse stimulation, or NPS, and says is drug-free — stimulates cell signals in tumors that promote the natural programmed death of cells, a process known as apoptosis. NPS, according to Pulse Biosciences, also enlists cancer-killing cells in the immune system to recognize and attack the same type of tumor cells, and clears them away.

The studies presented at the conference report on tests of the NPS technology in lab mice and with tumor cell lines in lab cultures that indicate the technology’s ability to stimulate immune-system responses similar to vaccines. A report titled, “Nanosecond pulsed electric field treatment of murine melanomas initiates an immune response and inhibits metastasis,” shows the effects of the technology in mice implanted with melanoma or advanced skin cancer tumors. The tumors were then removed either by surgery or with NPS treatments, followed by researchers injecting more melanoma cells into the mice. Results show mice receiving NPS treatments exhibited fewer metastatic or spreading cancers than mice whose tumors were surgically removed, suggesting the NPS treatments have an immunizing effect against metastatic cancer.

Another report titled, “Adaptive immune response to nano-pulse stimulation,” shows mice implanted with fibrosarcoma or soft-tissue tumors and treated with NPS showed more immune system cells infiltrating the primary tumor. In addition, similar tumors given to the mice 3 weeks later were completely rejected by immune-system cells in the mice.

A third report, “Nanosecond pulsed electric field treatment of tumor cell lines triggers immunogenic cell death,” shows NPS treatments on 3 separate tumor cell lines resulted in indicators of apoptosis in the treated cells. The authors suggest these results could explain the vaccine-like effects preventing tumor growth or spreading reported in the tests with mice, later challenged with new tumors.

“We believe the immune response observed in these recent studies,” says Pulse Biosciences CEO Darrin Uecker in a company statement, “further indicates that NPS may have the ability to prime the immune system and may be effective, and potentially even synergistic, when used in combination with other immuno-therapeutics, with the distinct advantage of not adding any drug related toxicity.”

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