I came across the following article on Wired today.
Light Therapy Spares the Scalpel and the Chemo
Cyrus Farivar 04.02.07 | 5:00 AM
Imagine you could treat cancer by taking a pill, then directing a laser light toward the location of the tumor. The growth would dissolve with no chemotherapy, and no harm to healthy tissue.
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.
“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 technique starts with a compound called a photosensitizer, a type of molecule that latches itself onto a tumor and when exposed to focused light excites oxygen, destroying the tumor cells. The treatment’s reliance on oxygen, however, has been a limitation because smaller, newer tumors don’t contain any.
The new technology gets around the problem by killing the tumor with “supramolecules” — large molecular assemblies that act as anti-cancer fighting forces. The supramolecules deliver the drug directly to the tumor’s DNA — a process known as DNA cleavage.
Once the drug (the set of supramolecules) is ingested (or in the case of skin cancer, applied as a cream), a light (usually from fiber optics or a laser) focused on the site of the tumor activates the DNA cleavage.
Read the complete article over on Wired.