Light could shed Light on Cancer Therapy

Sometimes your proposed research does not always have the outcome you predicted; however, for physicists at the University of Texas at Arlington they might have accidentally stumbled upon a lead to cancer therapy. Originally the researchers were investigating luminescent nano-particles in security-related radiation detection, but found a new method to target cancer cells by exposing light to deep tumor tissues.

Principle of Photodynamic Therapy

Principle of Photodynamic Therapy

While examining a copper-cysteamine (Cu-Cy) complex for their research, the scientists found that the luminescence decreased over long exposures to X-rays. This finding was completely unexpected, and by performing more experiments on this phenomenon they discovered that the combination of Cu-Cy nano-particles and X-ray exposure resulted in a reduce of tumor growth. The name of this applied light therapy is photodynamic therapy, which has existed for awhile. Photodynamic therapy functions in attacking cancer tissue by using a photosensitizer introduced into tumor tissue, which results in toxic singlet oxygen after coming in contact with either near-infrared light or X-rays.

This model improves upon previous models of photodynamic therapy by reducing the amount of steps required to just needed the two materials of Cu-Cy and X-ray exposure and being able to penetrate into deeper cancer tissue. In addition, there are not additional photosensitizers needed to trigger the toxic singlet oxygen with the Cu-Cy and X-ray reagents and it does not provide a threat to the healthy cells in close proximity. To test the new technique the Cu-Cy nano-particles under X-ray exposure, the photodynamic therapy was applied to human prostate and breast cancer cells and they cancerous cells did not grow in size after 13 days. In comparison to the photodynamic therapy treated cells, the control cancer cells grew nearly three times the size in the 13 day period.

Although the Cu-Cy nano-particle photodynamic therapy is an emerging alternative to traditional photodynamic therapy and other cancer treatments, there is still more research that needs to be performed. To make this method more efficient, the Cu-Cy nano-particle could be reduced in size to treat the cancer with a higher rate of absorption; however, the potential for this technique could be critical in the materialization of future cancer therapy.

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