TIME Cancer

New Laser Chemotherapy Could Minimize Harmful Side Effects

Selina Boertlein c/o SBPhotography / Getty Images Young girl receiving chemotherapy IV in hand

Drugs are only activated once inside the tumor, limiting damage to healthy tissue

Researchers have found a way to trigger cancer drugs inside a tumor to potentially minimize the damage of healthy tissue and alleviate the hair loss, fatigue and nausea of conventional chemotherapy.

In an experimental treatment developed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the drug is loaded onto fluorescent nanoparticles, which can be monitored as they make their way through the body. Once collected inside a tumor, the nanoparticles are beamed with a pulse of infrared laser light, which releases the drug.

The light trigger only works up to a range of 4 c.m., so the therapy would be limited to superficial tumors such as those in breast, colon and ovarian cancers. While successful in lab culture, the next step is to try the therapy in mice.


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