Light sensitive drugs to target cancer

June 5th, 2011 - 6:35 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 5 (IANS) Researchers are developing a new cancer treatment that uses light to target tumour cells, a method which promises greater effectiveness than available treatments.

Scientists at the University of Hull in Britain have created a drug packed with light-sensitive molecules that accumulate around cancer cells.

When light is shone through the tumour, the molecules are activated and kill the cancer cells.

The researchers say the approach allows cancers to be targeted with greater accuracy and help reduce harmful side effects, reports the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Ross Boyle, from the department of chemistry at the varsity, said: “We are trying to target the tumour to get larger amounts of the drug to localise at the site of the cancer.

“If you inject single molecules into the blood stream, you don’t get very good uptake by the tumour, so we have packaged the molecules into a nanoparticle,” he said.

“We have designed our particles at a size so that we get a gradual accumulation of our particles in the space between the cells in the tumour. It delivers a greater concentration of the drug to the tumour. It means when activated by light, the punch it delivers to the tumour is much greater,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

Unlike normal blood vessels in the body, those that supply blood to tumours have poorly-made walls and so leak blood into the surrounding area.

Boyle and his team designed the nanoparticles so that they are able to leak out of the blood vessels in tumours and accumulate around the cancer cells.

Once there, light can be delivered to the site of the tumour using optical fibres that pass through needles inserted into the tumour. The light activates the release of highly reactive chemicals that kill the cancer cells.

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