Light Therapy: Alternative to Chemo
Chemotherapy kills everything in its path, and cancer cells are cancer cells because they replicate faster than the "normal" cells that surround them. Therefore chemo does more harm than good in most people.
It might sound futuristic, but a select number of cancer patients already benefit from the method, called photodynamic therapy. An upgrade for the procedure could save thousands more cancer patients from the horrors of chemotherapy.
"It's an approach that I really like," said Karen Brewer, a professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech and lead author of the research on Tuesday at the American Chemical Society annual conference in Chicago. "We stand to make a really major improvement, instead of trying to treat one new kind of tumor or make the patient a little less sick."
Although chemotherapy has improved over the past decade, the treatment still damages healthy tissue and causes other unpleasant side effects like nausea and a weakened immune system. The researchers hope their work will spare patients from chemo's ravages and even the surgery usually necessary to remove a tumor.
"Rather than using a scalpel, you're using light and a molecule that then reacts with the cells," said William Phelps, scientific program director at the American Cancer Society.
The new treatment, however, still needs to be tested head to head with the current version of photodynamic therapy, Phelps said.
There was another therapy that was in the news somewhat recently, involving the choking of capillaries that feed the burgeoning cancer cells until the clusters die, but I have not heard any follow-up on that in a long time.