Electrochemotherapy in veterinary medicine

Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is employed in veterinary oncology around the world. In 2015, more than 4,000 animals were treated with ECT.

When is ECT used?

  • Treatment of superficial skin tumors
  • Adjuvant treatment to remove occult micrometastases
  • Adjuvant treatment to prevent local recurrence if the resection is incomplete
  • Neoadjuvant therapy to facilitate the surgery
  • Palliative treatment to improve the quality of life of the animal

ECT is indicated:

In veterinary medicine, the same protocol used in human medicine is employed (concentrations of cisplatin or bleomycin, application of electric pulses, etc.). However, general anesthesia is mandatory for animals.

Animals may develop local side effects, such as edema, necrosis, and require follow-up visits every two weeks during the recovery period.

However, necrosis does not provoke scratching like an infected wound, and animals treated with ECT show no decrease in their overall condition. Healthy scar tissue gradually replaces the tumor lesion. This healing by secondary intention can last up to several weeks.

ECT can be used alone, in one or more sessions.

It can also be used as adjuvant treatment. In addition to surgery or radiation therapy, ECT’s efficacy is maintained because the rate of cell proliferation is high in these cases. There is therefore no risk of slowing down recovery.

Remarkable results

Electrochemotherapy in veterinary medicine was described in more than 60 publications, for treatment of sarcoid, melanoma, fibrosarcoma, mast cell tumor, perianal tumor, soft-tissue sarcoma, … Some examples:

> For  squamous cell carcinoma tumors in cats, a 87.5% complete response is obtained (Tozon, 2014).

> In the case of perianal tumors in dogs, a recurrence-free-rate of 87.9% is achieved (Tozon, 2010).


  • Easy to perform: according to an ESOPE report, success rates do not vary from hospital to hospital
  • Reduction of chemotherapeutic agent doses: side effects and risks related to chemotherapy are largely reduced or absent
  • Repeatable treatment: on average, three sessions necessary for a 5cm lesion, depending on initial tumor size and response to the treatment, without toxicity threshold
  • Selectivity of tumor cells: healthy tissue remains intact
  • Fast treatment: on average 20 minutes, hospitalization in not required
  • Well tolerated: local reactions may occur and are controlled by NSAIDs
  • Price of treatment is affordable. Treatment fees in hospitals are considered very competitive

Case studies: sarcoids in horses

Photo : Dr. Fabien RELAVE DMV, DACVS, DECVS – Clinique Equine de Conques, Saint Aubin de Branne, FRANCE

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