The future is looking light and bright in the world of cancer research! A team of European engineers, physicists, neurosurgeons, biologists, and immunologists from the UK, Poland, and Sweden have worked together to develop a potentially revolutionary cancer treatment.
The treatment involves lighting up and wiping out the tiniest, microscopic cancer cells, which would allow surgeons to target and destroy cancer in patients in a highly effective way. Experts are predicting that this new photoimmunotherapy will be the world’s fifth major cancer treatment following surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy.
How does photoimmunotherapy work?
The treatment is a light-activated therapy that makes cancer cells glow in the dark, making them more visible to surgeons and therefore easier to remove from patients’ bodies. The therapy uses a special fluorescent dye in combination with a cancer-targeting compound.
In a medical trial involving mice with glioblastoma, a common and aggressive brain cancer, scans demonstrated that when activated by a near-infrared light just minutes after surgery is complete, the photoimmunotherapy triggers an anti-tumor effect and kills off the remaining cancer cells.
Other trials of the new form of photoimmunotherapy led by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, demonstrated how the treatment triggered an immune response that could prepare the immune system to target cancer cells in the future. This could mean that patients who undergo photoimmunotherapy will be less likely to develop glioblastoma post-surgery. Researchers are now studying the treatment for neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer.
Study leader Dr. Gabriela Kramer-Marek told the Guardian: “Surgery is challenging due to the location of the tumors, and so new ways to see tumor cells to be removed during surgery, and to treat residual cancer cells that remain afterward, could be of great benefit.”