A Hong Kong man has become the first in Asia to be treated for liver cancer by the Nanoknife procedure.

Developed in the United States, Nanoknife uses electrical pulses to kill cancerous cells in tumors that are less than five centimeters. It may become the latest technique to treat liver cancer, which in the past was treated by surgery.

Doctors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said a 67-year-old man, surnamed Lam, was their first patient to be treated by the new procedure.

The treatment lasted for just an hour and left only wounds - the size of needle holes - on the patient's skin. He was discharged the next day.

The advantage of Nanoknife over thermal ablation techniques is that it does not damage blood vessels or nerves near the tumor, said Simon Yu Chun-ho, director of the university's Vascular and Interventional Radiology Foundation Clinical Science Centre.

Lam, who is in good health, said: "I felt pain half an hour after the treatment. Then I felt nothing after a pain-killing shot. I checked out of the hospital on the third day and had tea in a restaurant on the fourth."

Under general anesthesia, needle-like electrodes of one millimeter in diameter penetrate the skin to reach the tumor.

Ultra-short but strong electric current is emitted by the electrodes in a controlled fashion to kill the tumor cells.

The cells are subsequently absorbed and replaced by normal healthy cells via the body's natural healing process.

Lam had gastric cancer last year and received radical gastrectomy. The cancer spread to the liver and close to the portal vein.

The Nanoknife technology is now under clinical trial and treatment may be given under clinical trial protocol, Yu said.

"We plan to recruit and treat 35 patients before publishing a dissertation about the treatment."

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