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Evaluating the Regulatory Immunomodulation Effect of Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) in Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma

Harshul Pandit PhD, Young K. Hong MD, Yan Li MD, PhD, Jack Rostas III, MD, Zachary Pulliam BS, Su Ping Li BS, Robert C. G. Martin MD, PhD, FACS
Pancreatic Tumors
Volume 26, Issue 3 / March , 2019



Irreversible electroporation (IRE) has been demonstrated as an effective local method for locally advanced (stage 3) pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Immune regulatory T cells (Tregs) induce immunosuppression of tumors by inhibiting patients’ anti-tumor adaptive immune response. This study aimed to evaluate the immunomodulation effect of IRE to identify an ideal time point for potential adjuvant immunotherapy.


This study prospectively evaluated an institutional review board-approved study of patients undergoing either in situ IRE or pancreatectomy. Patient blood samples were collected at different time points (before surgery [preOP] and on postoperative day [POD] 1, POD3, and POD5). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated and evaluated for three different CD4 + Treg subsets (CD25 + CD4 +, CD4 + CD25 + FoxP3 +, CD4 + CD25 + FoxP3 −) by flow cytometry and analyzed for median fold change (MFC) between each two consecutive time points (MFC = log2(T2/T1)).


The study analyzed 15 patients with in situ IRE (n = 11) or pancreatectomy (PAN) (n = 4). In both groups, CD25 + CD4 + Tregs decreased on POD1 followed by a steady increase in pancreatectomy, whereas the trend in the IRE group reversed between D3 and D5 (MFC: IRE [− 0.01], PAN [+ 0.39]). For each period, CD4 + CD25 + FoxP3 + Tregs showed the most dramatic inverse effect, with D3 to D5 showing the most change (MFC: IRE [− 0.18], PAN [+ 0.39]). Also, CD4 + CD25 + FoxP3 − Tregs showed an inverse effect between D3 and D5 (MFC: IRE [− 0.25], PAN [+ 0.49]). Altogether, the Treg trend was inversely affected by the in situ IRE procedure, with the greatest cumulative significant change for all three Treg subsets between D3 and D5 (MFC ± SEM: IRE [− 0.24 ± 0.05], PAN [+ 0.37 ± 0.02]; p = 0.016).


The study data suggest that in situ IRE procedure-mediated Treg attenuation between POD3 and POD5 can provide a clinical window of opportunity for potentiating clinical efficacy in combination with immunotherapy.

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