Treating cancer without toxins: Device uses light to target tumors

Image: Justin Baetge, Texas A&M Engineering

Engineers at Texas A&M University are developing a low cost, minimally invasive wireless device that offers precise, safe treatment options for colorectal and other cancers.

The team is led by Sung II Park, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and researcher in the Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems.

The researchers will utilize photodynamic therapy (PDT) during surgery by using a photosensitizer — a drug activated by light — to kill the cancer cells. During this process, surgeons will be able to remove the bulk of the tumor, then fully irradiate the tumor bed when the photosensitizer is activated by the light. This combination would result in a complete treatment in a safe and effective way with no toxic side effects.

“The biocompatible, miniaturized implantable LED device will enable light dosing and PDT that is tailored to the individual tumor response,” Park said.

In the long term, the work will result in a platform that has the potential to provide clinical-quality health monitoring capabilities for continuous use beyond the confines of traditional hospital or laboratory facilities; it will also allow for treatment options to prevent the development of additional malignancy and therefore significantly improve the quality of life for people with cancer. This type of platform would also reduce the huge economic burden on oncology resources, which totaled $167 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 alone. In 2022, projected global oncology spending will reach $206 billion, a 23.35% increase.

Further details about their device are published in the April issue of Nature Communications.

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. According to the American Cancer Society, this year, an estimated 149,500 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and it’s expected to cause about 52,980 deaths.

More in the College of Engineering