Breast cancer grows in the dark, low-oxygen, sealed environment of your body. It is usually removed with surgery and treated with chemotherapy and radiation. But medical lasers may be able to shed some targeted light on a new treatment for breast cancer. Scientists at Virginia Tech have been working with researchers at Canadian company Theralase to test a combination of photodynamic compounds (PDCs) and medical lasers on breast cancer cells. Not yet tested on people, the labs test results of the laser and PDC combination looks very exciting. Roger Dumoulin-White, President and CEO of Theralase announced that in-vitro testing of Theralase photodynamic compounds caused the destruction of breast cancer cells. Dr. Lothar Lilge, principal investigator of this study, is very happy with the study results. "Results indicate that these PDCs can destroy cancer cells when light-activated, even in low-oxygen environments. Low-oxygen environments prove challenging for most other cancer therapies, which is why these PDCs are very attractive for solid tumors such as cancers of the lung, breast, prostate and brain."
Photodynamic therapy is a type of cancer treatment that combines special drugs with specific wavelength of light. Each photodynamic compound is activated when it is exposed to a matching light, typically aimed at the body from an external source and calibrated for a specific distance to penetrate tissues. When the photodynamic drugs meet the light waves, they generate oxygen and cause the death of nearby cells. Cancer cells retain photodynamic drugs longer than healthy cells do, allowing doctors to give you targeted treatment for cancer, with minimal damage to the rest of your body. Photodynamic therapy can cut off angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels to the tumor - and it may send your immune system into action, causing it to attack the cancer where it lives.
Photodynamic drugs and related treatments must be extensively tested and approved by the FDA before they can be used for treatments, so we may have to wait some time before agencies in the United States and Canada give Theralase the thumbs-up. My hope is that when clinical trials begin, this combination of light and specially-targeted drugs will be used on metastatic breast cancers like Inflammatory Breast Cancer, as well as more well-contained forms of this disease. It would be great to find a way to stop the rampant spread of such cancers, without compromising the quality of life for patients.
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