Chemotherapy with light; only one injection required

January 14, 2021

Researchers in South Korea have developed a phototherapy technology that can significantly increase efficiency while reducing the pain of chemotherapy and minimizing side effects after treatment. The President of Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Seok-Jin Yoon announced that a research team led by Dr. Se-hoon Kim at the Theragnosis Research Center (KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology) has developed a cancer-targeted phototherapeutic agent that promises complete elimination of cancer cells without side effects. It involves only one injection and repeated phototherapy. This development was made through joint research with Professor Dong-June Ahn of Korea University and Professor Yoon-Sik Lee of Seoul National University.

Phototherapy technology, a cancer treatment modality that uses light, injects a photosensitizer that destroys cancer cells in response to a laser, which accumulates in only cancerous tissues. Further, it shoots light to selectively destroy the cancer cells. It has far fewer side effects than radiation therapy or general chemotherapy (that inevitably damage the tissues surrounding the cancer cells), allowing repeated treatment.

Whereas the effect of the conventional photosensitizers only lasted for one session, and the photosensitizer had to be administered each time the treatment procedure was repeated. Moreover, the residual photosensitizer after treatment accumulated in the skin or eyes causing side effects due to light; thus, it was recommended to isolate the patient from sunlight and indoor lighting for some time after treatment. Overall, the patients receiving treatment have had to suffer from the pain of the injection and the inconvenience of living in isolation each time. Recently, photosensitizers with phototherapeutic effects that get activated only in cancer tissues have been developed; however, they are still toxic and have to be injected for every repeat treatment.

Dr. Se-hoon Kim and his team at KIST used peptides that selectively target cancer tissues and assemble themselves in a specific order to resolve the problems associated with the phototherapy technology. The research team developed a peptide-based photosensitizer that activates phototherapeutic effects only in cancer tissues by using the internalizing RGD peptide (iRGD) that can selectively penetrate and target cancer tissues as the skeleton, and by properly designing a matting agent for the modulation of its reaction to light.

When this newly developed photosensitizer is injected into a living body, it is activated by the body temperature and aggregates into a supramolecular array designed by the research team, to be stored around cancer cells. The subsequent phototherapy can destroy only cancer cells without affecting normal cells.

The phototherapeutic agent developed by the researchers was injected into a mouse model implanted with a tumor, and the photosensitizer was stored around the tumor and was continuously released for a long time (2 to 4 weeks), demonstrating the ability of selectively targeting the tumor with just one injection around the cancerous tissues. Moreover, no toxicity was found to destroy the tissues and major organs around the cancer, even with repeated exposure to light. The cancerous tissues were completely removed through repeated procedures.

"We developed a cancer-targeting peptide phototherapeutic agent that forms a reservoir through supramolecular self-assembly without additional adjuvants when injected in vivo," said KIST Center Director Se-hoon Kim. "The developed phototherapeutic agent is expected to be useful in future phototherapy as it allows long-term repeated phototherapy without toxicity after only one injection around the cancer until the complete removal of the cancer, and has a simple formulation with a single component," he added.
This study was carried out with a grant from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), as part of the Institutional R&D Program of KIST. The results of this study were published in the latest issue of "ACS Nano" (IF: 14.588, the top 5.25% in JCR), an international journal in the field of nanotechnology.

National Research Council of Science & Technology

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to