New OSU Research Targets Cancer

By Sidney Reilly

surgery2Scientists and sci-fi fans alike have long dreamed of a time in the future when doctors would be able to simply zap tumors on a screen like they’re playing a game of Asteroids. Now researchers at OSU are making that dream a reality. No word yet on an Atari release of Surgeroids.

The new research, published in Nanoscale, a nanoscience and technology journal, basically contends that scientists can insert compounds directly into cancer cells and then use phototherapy (which traditionally uses different waveforms of light to treat different ailments) to identify the parts that need to be removed.

Oleh Taratula, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, was one of the OSU researchers who worked on the study. He noted that this new technique would make the surgical approach to tumor removal much more reliable and exacting.

“With this approach, cancerous cells and tumors will literally glow and fluoresce when exposed to near-infrared light, giving the surgeon a precise guide about what to remove,” Taratula said in a press release. “That same light will activate compounds in the cancer cells that will kill any malignant cells that remain. It’s an exciting new approach to help surgery succeed.”

The study uses a compound called naphthalocyanine which reacts with infrared light by taking on a glowing quality. Doctors can then use the illumination as a very simple map of what to cut out and what to leave. Previously, naphthalocyanine’s non-solubility in water was a barrier to using it effectively for surgery, but the new study utilizes a water-soluble polymer to allow it to sit nestled within a molecule that will then latch onto cancer cells and ignore healthy ones.

“For many cancers, surgery is a first choice of treatment,” Taratula said in the release. “In coming years we may have a tool to make that surgery more precise, effective, and thorough than it’s been before.”

The next step is clinical trials in humans, but first the researchers hope to get similarly positive results out of dogs with malignant tumors. They are partnering with OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine for the next phase of testing.