A scientist from the University of Texas San Antonio has developed a novel way of killing cancer cells using ultraviolet light. The new method can potentially help cancer patients with hard-to-reach or inoperable malignant tumors, especially young children.
The new cancer treatment method was developed by Matthew Gdovin, the university's associate professor at the Department of Biology.
The therapy involves an injection of nitrobenzaldehyde, a chemical compound, directly into the tumor to allow it to spread into the tissue.
The next step is to aim a light beam to the tissue. This causes the cells to become highly acidic and eventually die. In just two hours, up to 95 percent of the targeted cancer cells can be eradicated, Gdovin estimated.
Gdovin explained that even if there are various cancer types, they all share one thing in common, and that is to commit cell suicide.
For his study, Gdovin used the method on one of cancer's most aggressive types: triple negative breast cancer. This type is also one of the most difficult to treat and often leaves one of the recipients with very poor prognosis.
"There are so many types of cancer for which the prognosis is very poor. We're thinking outside the box and finding a way to do what for many people is simply impossible," said Gdovin.
Using mice subjects, Gdovin was able to prevent the malignant tumors from growing and increase the survival rates by almost double.
Compared with chemotherapy, Gdovin's novel method targets only the tumors, which makes it a more precise therapy. In contrast, chemotherapy targets all of the body's cells. There are certain chemotherapeutics that allow the cancer cells to stay acidic as a method to get rid of the cancer. However, this often leads to hair loss and makes many patients weak.
The scientist is hoping that the new non-invasive cancer treatment will help doctors get rid of challenging tumors including the ones in the spine, brain stem and aorta.
The new method could also prevent radiation-related mutations in young cancer patients when they grow older. Moreover, Gdovin is hoping that it can assist cancer patients who have maxed out their radiation treatments, especially those who can no longer bear the pain and scarring associated with chemotherapy.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012, there were 2,125 men and 224,147 women in the country who received breast cancer diagnoses. Among them, 405 men and 41,150 women died from the disease.
The research is featured in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Photo: Eric Norris | Flickr