UVa Researchers Look To Cure Tumors Using Light

By: Mark Tenia Email
By: Mark Tenia Email

August 4, 2008

"We're definitely very excited," said Wensha Yang, a scientist with the UVa Radiation Oncology Department.

Excited about what could be, in theory, a cure for all cancers. One key ingredient, an FDA approved compound called photofrin, is absorbed by cancer cells, and when exposed to light kills the cancer. Another key, nano particles called quantum dots that can emit light.

"When excited by external energy, it can emit light," said Yang.

An external energy like radiation from an x-ray. The radiation exposure causes the quantum dots to emit light, causing the photofrin to kill the cancer cells. It's a way scientists may be able to treat tumors that normally can't be reached...

"Combining the quantum dot nanoparticle with photofrin, we can shoot tumors that are deep seated inside the body," said Yang.

The treatment is already working in cell cultures, and researchers at UVa have just received the funding to test mice, and while the study is focusing on lung cancer, Yang says this could work for any cancer.

"Right now we are focusing just on the lung, but potentially it can be applied for other cancers too," said Yang.

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