electrochemical treatment of cancers – Swedish cure 1980

DR.WEEKS’ COMMENT:  I first met and spoke with Dr. Nordenstrom http://www.iabc.readywebsites.com/page/page/623957.htm after studying with Dr. Robert Becker (http://www.earthpulse.net/Becker.htm)   in the mid 1980’s and I was astonished at two things: 1) that this was so elegant and effective and 2) that no American doctors were using this protocol. In the years since, the word has spread, associations were formed (the Association for Biologically Closed Circuits in Medicine and Biology, or IABC  For more information on the books published by B.E.W. Nordenström, contact: http://www.ursus.se/ursus/publications.shtml

DOI: 10.1148/radiol.2323040082

(Radiology 2004;232:931-932.)

Letters to the Editor

Percutaneous Radiofrequency Ablation of Pulmonary Malignancies: Giving Credit for Previous Work

Philip N. Cascade, MD Department of Radiology, University of Michigan Medical System, 1500 East Medical Center Drive, Taubman Center, Room 2910, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0326. e-mail: pcascade@umich.edu


In the two recently published articles “Unresectable Pulmonary Malignancies: CT-guided Percutaneous Radiofrequency Ablation””Preliminary Results” and “Percutaneous Radiofrequency Ablation for Inoperable Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Metastases: Preliminary Report” (1,2), the authors fail to mention or credit the originator of the technique of percutaneous treatment of metastatic lung cancer with use of an electric current, Bjorn E. W. Nordenstrom, professor emeritus of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden.

Dr Nordenstrom, a well-known radiologist from Sweden, at one time served as president of the Nobel Laureate Nominating Committee for Physiology and Medicine, was one of the developers of the balloon catheter, and was one of the originators of the technique of percutaneous lung biopsy. He described the controversial concept of biologically closed circuits in the early 1980s after 20 years of research, believing that there was a biologically active energy system within the body, which, when disturbed, could be involved in the development of cancer and other diseases.

In the 1960s, Dr Nordenstrom theorized that lung tumors had electric properties, and he began to measure electric potential across tumors. His experimentation demonstrated that some tumors have an electric charge, with a negatively charged center and a positively charged perimeter. On the basis of this preliminary work, he theorized that application of a positive charge to the center of tumors would change the local pH level and destroy the “tumor battery,” resulting in fibrosis and healing of the cancer (Nordenstrom J, oral communication, 2003). He named this treatment “electrochemical treatment,” or “EChT.” Dr Nordenstrom proceeded to treat a cohort of 25 patients with this EChT technique by using percutaneous placement of electrodes into the tumor and application of a low-voltage current (7-10 V). Several patients in the series showed “convincing cure,” and others showed arrested tumor growth. These results were published in 1977 (3). There have been many subsequent publications from around the world about the technique of using electric current to treat a variety of cancers.

The unique work of Dr Nordenstom has been widely recognized. In 1984, Dr Nordenstrom presented an invited paper at the annual meeting of the Fleischner Society, which was titled “Biokinetic Impacts on Structure and Imaging of the Lung: The Concept of Biological Closed Electric Circuits.” This paper was subsequently published in a major radiology journal. In 2001, he received the International Scientific and Technological Cooperation Award from the People’s Republic of China, which is granted to foreigners who make important contributions to China’s scientific development. In fact, the Chinese Embassy estimated in 2002 that more than 2000 physicians had treated some 13 000 patients with a variety of cancers by using the EChT technique.

In 1993, Dr Nordenstrom became one of the founders and the first president of the Association for Biologically Closed Circuits in Medicine and Biology, or IABC. This association is active today, with representation of approximately 300 scientists from around the globe. At each annual meeting of the IABC, scientists present work on the application of electric energy as a treatment for a variety of diseases, including cancer.

Although the technique used by Dr Nordenstrom differs somewhat from that of these authors (1,2), I believe that Dr Nordenstrom should be recognized as the first individual known to treat lung neoplasms with electric energy by using a percutaneous approach. I congratulate Dr Suh and colleagues (1) and Dr Lee and colleagues (2) for their fine work, and I hope that any future publications will acknowledge the pioneering effort of Dr Nordenstrom.


  1. Suh RD, Wallace AB, Sheehan RE, Heinze SB, Goldin JG. Unresectable pulmonary malignancies: CT-guided percutaneous radiofrequency ablation””preliminary results. Radiology 2003; 229:821-829.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  2. Lee JM, Jin GY, Goldberg SN, et al. Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation for inoperable non-small cell lung cancer and metastases: preliminary report. Radiology 2004; 230:125-134.[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  3. Nordenstrom BEW. Electrocoagulation of small lung tumors. In: Potchen EJ, eds. Current concepts in radiology St Louis, Mo: Mosby, 1977; 3:331-347.

Drs Lee and Goldberg respond:

Jeong Min Lee, MD,* and S. Nahum Goldberg, MD{dagger} Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Seoul National University Hospital, 28 Yongon-dong, Chongno-gu, Seoul 110-744, Korea*
Department of Radiology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Mass{dagger}. e-mail: leejm@radcom.snu.ac.kr

We have read with interest the recent letter to the editor concerning electrochemical treatment of pulmonary malignancy. The letter details the pioneering of this technique by Dr Nordenstrom for the treatment of metastatic lung cancer. Yet, directly implied in the communication is the suggestion that we “fail to mention or credit the originator of the technique of percutaneous treatment of metastatic lung cancer with use of an electric current.”

We wish to politely respond that we are well aware of the concept of electrochemical treatment, but on the basis of fundamental mechanistic differences between that technique and radiofrequency ablation, we did not see any reason to cite work beyond the scope of our article. It is important to stress that radiofrequency tumor ablation is a thermal therapy that destroys the tumor by means of coagulation at high-temperature heating (1). While it is true that radiofrequency ablation involves the use of electromagnetic energy to achieve this effect, this has very little to do with the electrochemical treatment described. Hence, drawing comparisons between the two very different treatments would be similar to attempting to draw analogies between photodynamic therapy and laser ablation or the use of Bovie electrocautery for surgical resection of lung cancer as a predicate to radiofrequency ablation.

In conclusion, Dr Nordenstrom and the concept of electrochemical treatment deserve appropriate consideration by the scientific community in the appropriate format and venues. However, care must be drawn in defining the relevance and appropriateness of comparison of different techniques, most certainly prior to any insinuation or hint of impropriety.


  1. Lee JM, Jin GY, Goldberg SN, et al. Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation for inoperable non-small cell lung cancer and metastases: preliminary report. Radiology 2004; 230:125-134.
  2. Goldberg SN, Gazelle GS, Mueller PR. Thermal ablation therapy for focal malignancy: a unified approach to underlying principles, techniques, and diagnostic imaging guidance. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2000; 174:323-331.[Free Full Text]

This article has been cited by other articles:

Home page JCOHome page
E. Liapi and J.-F. H. Geschwind
Transcatheter and Ablative Therapeutic Approaches for Solid Malignancies
J. Clin. Oncol., March 10, 2007; 25(8): 978 – 986.
[Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *