Researchers at Washington University have adapted a safe and easy light therapy treatment, normally used to treat skin-deep illnesses, to fight cancer. The new phototherapy method they developed brings light directly to cancerous tumors, no matter how deep they are in the body.

The technique requires that patients ingest a sugar combined with radioactive fluorine and light-sensitive, cancer-fighting nanoparticles. During a PET Scan, the sugar flares up and causes the nanoparticles to kick into high gear. The Trojan horse effect, a disastrous result of an anticipated gain, is responsible for the final stage. Tumors rapidly absorb sugar and in this particular case, they absorb the seeds of their own demise.

The light therapy procedure appears to be safe. The materials, light, and equipment that are required are only targeted at tumors so the rest of the body remains unaffected. There won’t be stray nanoparticles floating around the body. This treatment requires far fewer drugs than chemotherapy making it a more desirable choice because of reduced side effects. Chemotherapy can cause fatigue, pain, hair loss, loss of appetite, changes in thinking and memory, and other nervous system side effects. As of right now, it’s unclear if there are any serious side effects to light therapy.

Washington University’s researchers are already planning small-scale trials for this new therapy. If the therapy proves successful and leads to official approval, there should not be a long wait until the therapy is used in practice. This could be a very successful treatment for particularly deadly forms of cancer and will yield few side effects for the patient.

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