Light Therapy is Harnessed to Target and Kill Cancer Cells in World First

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An innovative light-activated therapy could help detect and treat an aggressive brain cancer type, a new study shows.The ‘photoimmunotherapy’ combines a special fluorescent dye with a cancer-targeting compound, which together boosts the body’s immune response.

In studies in mice, the combination was shown to improve the visibility of cancer cells during surgery and, when activated by near-infrared light, to trigger an anti-tumor effect.

The treatment, studied by an international team of researchers from the The Institute of Cancer Research and the Medical University of Silesia could ultimately help surgeons to remove brain cancers like glioblastoma more effectively, and boost the body’s response to cancer cells that remain after surgery.

Lighting-up brain cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, also known as GBM, is one of the most common and aggressive types of brain cancer. New ways to improve surgery could help patients live for longer.

Surgeons often use a technique called Fluorescence Guided Surgery to treat diseases like glioblastoma and other brain cancers, which uses dyes to help identify the tumor mass to be removed during surgery.

But due to these tumors growing in sensitive areas of the brain like the motor cortex, which is involved in the planning and control of voluntary movements, glioblastoma surgery can leave behind residual tumor cells that can be very hard to treat—and which mean the disease can come back more aggressively later.

The new research builds on Fluorescence Guided Surgery using a novel technique called photoimmunotherapy (PIT).

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