Scientists have successfully developed a treatment for revolutionary cancer by illuminating and destroying microscopic cancer cells, a breakthrough that allows surgeons to more effectively target and eradicate disease in patients.
A European team of engineers, physicists, neurosurgeons, biologists and immunologists from the United Kingdom, Poland and Sweden have joined forces to develop a new form of photoimmunotherapy.
Experts say it will become the world’s fifth-leading cancer treatment after surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
Light-activated therapy forces the cancer cells to glow in the dark, helping surgeons to remove the tumors compared to current methods and destroying the remaining cells within minutes of the operation. In the world’s first test for mice with glioblastoma, one of the most common and aggressive forms of brain cancer, the scan showed that the treatment revealed even the tiniest cancer cells, helping surgeons to destroy them and then destroy the rest.
Tests of a new form of photoimmunotherapy led by the Cancer Research Institute in London have also shown that the treatment triggers an immune response that targets the immune system in the future and prevents the recurrence of glioblastoma after surgery. Researchers are now exploring new ways to treat neuroblastoma in children.
“Treating brain cancer like glioblastoma can be difficult and, unfortunately, there are very few treatments for patients,” study leader Dr. Gabriela Kramer-Marek told the Guardian. “Surgery is complicated by the location of the tumors, so new ways to see the tumor cells that are removed during the operation and then treat the remnants of the remaining cancer cells can be of great benefit.”
The leader of the ICR’s Pre-Clinical Molecular Imaging Team added: “Our study showed that a new photoimmunotherapy using a combination of fluorescent markers, affidene protein and near-infrared light can detect and treat remaining glioblastoma cells in mice. We hope that in the future this method can be used in the treatment of human glioblastoma and other cancers.
Therapy combines a special fluorescent dye with a cancer-targeting compound. In mice, the combination was shown to dramatically improve the appearance of cancer cells during surgery and to have an anti-tumor effect when activated later with near-infrared light.
Researchers at ICR, Imperial College London, Medical University of Silesia, Poland and the Swedish company AffibodyAB believe that the new treatment will help surgeons to easily and effectively remove particularly complex tumors such as head and neck tumors.
The joint effort is funded mainly by the Cancer Research Convergence Science Center in the UK at ICR and Imperial College London – a partnership that brings together international scientists in engineering, physical and life sciences to find innovative ways to fight cancer.
“Multidisciplinary work is critical to finding innovative solutions to the challenges we face in researching, diagnosing and treating cancer, and this study is a great example,” said Professor Axel Berens, leader of the ICR Cancer Cell Group. and research director at Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Center.
“This study demonstrates a new approach to the detection and treatment of glioblastoma cells in the brain with the help of light to turn the immunosuppressive environment into an immune-vulnerable environment and has interesting potential as therapy against this aggressive type of brain tumor.”
After decades of progress in the treatment of cancer, today the four main forms — cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy — are effective in treating many people, and many can live for many years to come.
However, the proximity of some tumors to vital organs has led to the development of new treatments for cancer that can help doctors deal with the risk of damage to healthy parts of the body. Experts believe that photoimmunotherapy may be the answer.
When tumors grow in sensitive areas of the brain, such as the motor cortex, which is involved in planning and controlling voluntary movements, glioblastoma surgery can leave tumor cells in place, making them very difficult to treat and recurring. later aggressive.
The new treatment uses synthetic molecules called affidene. These are tiny proteins that have been developed in the laboratory to bind to a specific target with high accuracy, and in this case a protein called EGFR is often mutated in glioblastoma.
Affibodes were then combined with a fluorescent molecule called IR700 and given to mice before surgery. The bright light in the compounds illuminated the dye, highlighting microscopic areas of brain tumors for surgeons. The laser then switched to near-infrared light, which killed the remaining cells after the operation and produced anti-tumor activity.
“Photoimmunotherapy helps us target cancer cells that cannot be destroyed during surgery, which helps people live longer after treatment,” said Dr. Charles Evans, research information manager at Cancer Research in the UK. He warned that there were still technical challenges to overcome, such as access to infrared light close to all parts of the tumor, but he added that he was “excited to see how this study develops.”