Key facts:

  • First hospital in Victoria to use NanoKnife on prostate cancer
  • 100 surgeries since 2019
  • Minimally invasive procedure avoiding prostate removal
The NanoKnife is an alternative to radical surgery or radiation for prostate cancer patients.

100 men have benefited from a ground-breaking treatment to target and kill prostate cancer, without the need to remove the prostate.

In 2019, Epworth Freemasons became the first hospital in Victoria to introduce the minimally invasive prostate cancer treatment called focal therapy using NanoKnife technology. It treats only the cancerous part of the prostate, leaving the rest of the prostate tissue undisturbed, minimising side effects.

The process utilises Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) where a surgeon implants several small electrodes called NanoKnife around the cancerous tumour. Electrical pluses are used to puncture nanometre-sized holes in the tumour, causing the cancer cells to die.

Professor Nathan Lawrentschuk said the NanoKnife is an alternative to radical surgery or radiation for prostate cancer patients.

“Unfortunately, radical prostate cancer surgery or radiation carries side effects in some men including erectile dysfunction and altered bladder control,” Prof Lawrentschuk said.

“Killing the cancer cells using the NanoKnife doesn’t affect surrounding structures, such as nerves and the bladder - It’s life changing for men.”

Treatment using the NanoKnife is a day procedure. Patients are then monitored over time to ensure new tumours don’t emerge.

Thili Chengodu, Research Manager at E.J. Whitten Prostate Cancer Research Centre at Epworth said the 100th patient milestone coincides with an effort to become a major training centre for IRE in Australia, as well as a hub for education and research.

“We currently have a PhD candidate who is reviewing IRE from all aspects. We believe the outcome of this PhD will guide practice in this field of treatment and care so our centre becomes a premier destination for IRE training and education in Australia in the future.

“There are currently six Epworth urologists trained to use the IRE. We are building our own first-hand knowledge around the efficacy and impact of this technology and most importantly, the difference this makes to the lives of our patients today and in the future.”

Melbourne man George Alexander was diagnosed with low level prostate cancer in 2016. Since then, he has undergone regular surveillance biopsies and scans and was told, late last year, the prostate cancer had grown.

Mr Alexander said Professor Lawrentschuk gave him three options.

“Nathan explained that at one end of the spectrum, I could opt for a full prostate removal. At the other end of the spectrum, I could wait a further six months and go through the MRI and PET scan, the middle ground was to have IRE NanoKnife surgery,” Mr Alexander said.

“I spoke with my GP from the Men’s Health Clinic at Epworth Freemasons and have spoken with men at a prostate cancer support group about their experiences in the past,” Mr Alexander said.

“My decision to receive the NanoKnife procedure was based on practicality and lifestyle choice.

“I am aware of the side effects of a radical prostatectomy and even the small possibility of being incontinent at the age of 67 did not sit well with me. Deferring things for a further 6 months was also not an option. The cancer was there, it could only get worse and I didn't want to take the risk. The NanoKnife option made sense because it would treat the immediate cancer problem and still allows for other treatment types down the track if required.”

The NanoKnife at Epworth Freemasons was funded by the Epworth Medical Foundation and the EJ Whitten Prostate Cancer Foundation.