New light therapy for breast cancer

It does not involve surgery and leaves healthy cells unaffected

A groundbreaking treatment for breast cancer which uses light to target and kill tumours without the need for surgery is being pioneered by a British doctor.
 
Mo Keshtgar, a cancer surgeon, is adapting a form of light therapy for skin cancer to be used in breast cancer, the most common cancer in Britain which kills nearly 12,000 people a year.
 
The technique, which would be a huge step forward for oncology research, does not involve surgery and leaves healthy cells around the tumour unaffected.

The treatment – known as photodynamic therapy (PDT) – which could become an alternative to radiotherapy in some cases, works by giving the patient a drug that makes the target area sensitive to light. The drug is activated when light – a low power red laser – is beamed at the area. The process starves the cells of oxygen, causing them to die.

Mr Keshtgar, who unveiled his technique at this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, said: ‘Breast cancer can be particularly traumatic, with more invasive treatments leaving physical and emotional scars. Our treatment will keep the structure of the connective tissue intact meaning the breast does not become deformed or lose shape.’

The treatment is already available for skin cancer (non-melanoma), mouth cancer, and some other cancers. But the team is the first to apply it to breast cancer. Trials are also under way with PDT for prostate and bile duct and pancreatic cancer.

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