Scientists Destroy Cancer Cells in the Blood

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 15:48

Scientists have developed a new kind of laser that can destroy those tumor cells from the outside of the skin.

The laser is up to 1,000 times more sensitive than current methods used to detect tumor cells in blood, the researchers reported June 12 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Live Science reports.

The new technology, dubbed the Cytophone, uses pulses of laser light on the outside of the skin to heat up cells in the blood. But the laser only heats up melanoma cells — not healthy cells — because these cells carry a dark pigment called melanin, which absorbs the light. The Cytophone then uses an ultrasound technique to detect the teensy, tiny waves emitted by this heating effect.

They tested the technology on 28 light-skinned patients who had melanoma and on 19 healthy volunteers who didn't have melanoma. They shone the laser onto the patients' hands and found that within 10 seconds to 60 minutes, the technology could identify circulating tumor cells in 27 out of 28 of those volunteers.

"Our goal is by killing these cells, we can help prevent the spreading of metastatic cancer," said senior author Vladimir Zharov, director of the nanomedicine center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. But he hopes to conduct more research to optimize the device further to kill more tumor cells, while still being harmless to other cells.

They also haven't yet tested the device on people with darker skin, who have higher levels of melanin. Even so, only a very small percentage of African Americans get melanoma.

The team hopes to expand the technology to find circulating tumor cells released by cancers other than melanoma. These cancer cells do not carry melanin, so to detect them, the researchers would first need to inject the patients with specific markers or molecules that would bind to these cells so that they can be targeted by the laser. They have so far demonstrated that this technique could work on human breast cancer cells in the lab.

Opinions


Popular News

Latest News