Killing Cancer at the Speed of Light
Bin Chen, PhD, is working on perfecting a therapy that could maximize the work done by cancer drugs. The method? Light.
Photodynamic detection and therapy (PDD/PDT) is a process by which compounds in cells are activated by absorbing certain wavelengths of light. PDD causes the compounds to glow, which allows researchers to measure what’s actually in the cell, and PDT generates cytotoxic oxygen species that kill the cell in the presence of oxygen.
“Tumor cells are tough, but PDT is a killer,” said Dr. Chen, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at University of the Sciences.
Dr. Chen’s lab has specifically worked on identifying how photodynamic stimulus affects tumor cells, as well as tumor vascular structures and functions.
They’ve tested how PDT, combined with a PI3K inhibitor drug, affects the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway in prostate cancer cells, which is the pathway that creates and maintains the vascular system within a tumor.
When that signaling pathway is inhibited, oxygen and nutrients can’t get to cells, and they die.
This therapy could also go beyond initial treatment. “If we can combine PDT with a proteasome inhibitor, we’ll enhance cell death and prevent cell regrowth after treatment,” he said.
Dr. Chen is currently testing this cotherapy in animal models, but he said that one PI3K drug is close to clinical trial stage.
“Tumor cells are tough, but [photodynamic therapy] is a killer.”
—Dr. Bin Chen