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LED device may be used to treat colorectal cancer

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The small device is designed to enable more individualised application of light dosing and photodynamic therapy (Photo by Justin Baetge/Texas A&M)

A team of scientists are working to develop a low cost, minimally invasive, wireless LED device that could offer precise, safe treatment for colorectal cancer.

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, according to the American Cancer Society.

This year, an estimated 151,030 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and it is expected to cause about 52,580 deaths.

Currently, surgery and chemotherapy are the main options for patients.

But surgery is frequently complicated by disease recurrence at the site of the original cancer when microscopic cancer cells are left behind, while chemotherapy can lead to toxic side effects.

The proposed device, detailed in a report published in ‘Nature Communications‘ on April 21, may offer another pathway to treatment using photodynamic therapy (PDT) – a two-stage light activated treatment.

PDT combines light energy with a drug called a photosensitiser designed to destroy cancerous and precancerous cells after light of a specific wavelength is activated.

Using this method, surgeons will remove the bulk of the tumour, then remotely activate a photosensitiser with non-thermal light from the new miniature, implantable LED device.

In the presence of oxygen, the excited photosensitiser will lead to the production of reactive oxygen species, inducing intracellular oxidative stress and triggering tumour cell death.

This combination could result in a complete treatment in a safe and effective way with no toxic side effects, a press release from the university said.

Leading the work is Sung II Park, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and researcher in the Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems at Texas A&M University.

Although PDT has been shown to be effective in many solid tumour cancers, its clinical application has been limited by an incomplete understanding of the differing response of cancers and normal tissue.

There are also few methods to monitor tumour response, deliver light to deep tumour cells and adjust light dosage accordingly.

However, “the biocompatible, miniaturised implantable LED device will enable light dosing and PDT that is tailored to the individual tumour response”, Park said.

In the long term, the work could result in a platform that has the potential to provide clinical-quality health monitoring capabilities for continuous use beyond the confines of a traditional hospital or lab.

It may also allow for treatment options to prevent the development of additional malignancy and therefore significantly improve the quality of life for people with cancer, the press release said.

“The intracavity device will provide a minimally invasive, biocompatible platform for light detection of residual cancers and delivery to tumour cells located in any part of the body, suggesting it could make an impact in the areas of breast, kidney, lung, pancreatic, prostate, ovarian and rare cancers,” Park said.

Other contributors to the research include several researchers from the electrical and computer engineering department, the University of Leeds and Sun Moon University.

This work was supported by grants from the interdisciplinary X-Grants Program, part of the President’s Excellence Fund at Texas A&M, the 2018 National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression Young Investigator Awards from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and the Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations Engineering Research Center.

It was also supported by a Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund Fellowship, a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professorship and an NIHR Senior Investigator Award.

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