Despite the name, “Nanoknife” is not a surgical treatment. The purpose is to destroy tumour cells within inoperable tumours using a process called electroporation, or electropermeabilization. Short pulses of high-voltage electrical energy are passed between electrodes placed adjacent to the tumour, and this results in the cell membranes becoming more porous. In this way cells are killed without the use of thermal energy, as would be the case in radiofrequency ablation or microwave ablation.
Whilst this represents an interesting technology, there are currently no trials confirming any benefit over existing technologies, and it is currently not available within the NHS in the UK. The company behind the technology (Angiodynamics) should be encouraged to invest in well-designed trials to properly assess the technique and, until these are available, we would not encourage patients to seek out this form of treatment in the private sector. NanoKnife currently costs £13,500 privately (Sept. 2014).