Blue Light Special: Killing Cancer With “Light Activation”

A new platinum-based compound that is activated by blue light offers a cancer-killing potency that is up to 80 times higher than that of current platinum-based anti-cancer drugs, according to research led by the University of Warwick.

Working in conjunction with researchers at Ninewells Hospital Dundee and the University of Edinburgh, the Warwick team hopes the new compound will improve cancer treatment effectiveness for a wide variety of cancers. According to Professor Peter Sadler, University of Warwick Department of Chemistry:

“This compound could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of future cancer treatments. Light activation provides this compound’s massive toxic power and also allows treatment to be targeted much more accurately against cancer cells.”

This assertion is backed up by initial tests performed at Ninewells Hospital Dundee. Here, a team tested the effectiveness of the new compound on killing cultivated esophageal cancer cells. The results of these studies were encouraging, with 50 percent of all cancer cells killed by a small concentration of 8.4 micro moles per liter of the compound.

Additional research for the compound is set to begin on ovarian and liver cancer cells.

Previous platinum-based compounds have been engineered to react to ultraviolet light. However, the narrow wavelength of ultraviolet rays has limited its real-world potential. Since the new compound reacts directly with visible blue light (as well as green light), it is expected to deliver a broader range of applications.

Researchers also report that the new compound is stable and easily administered. Additionally, it is water soluble, meaning that it simply dissolves and flushes from the body following treatment.

Peter Sadler explains that “light activation generates a powerful cytotoxic compound that has proven to be significantly more effective than treatments such as cisplatin.” As a result, the team has hopes that the new compound will offer effective treatment options for cancer types that do not traditionally respond well to platinum-based chemotherapy.


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