Fighting Cancer with Light

Researchers have developed a way to activate cancer fighting drugs by pulsing them with light, which could make such therapies safer.

Nov 7, 2011
Tia Ghose

Laser used for light-activated cancer therapyWIKIMEDIA COMMONS, NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE

Researchers have demonstrated a way to selectively target cancer cells for destruction—light. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland used an antibody that targets proteins expressed on cancer cells to target tumors, and tagged it with a chemical that, when hit with a certain wavelength of near infrared light, becomes toxic to cells, according to the paper published Sunday (November 6) in Nature Medicine. By waiting until the antibody had bound to tumor cells before exposing it to infrared radiation, the researchers could effectively target just the cancer, and not the surrounding healthy tissue.

Importantly, the treatment was effective. The tumors of treated mice shrank significantly, with minimal damage to normal cells. Treated mice also lived significantly longer than controls, BBC News reported.