The new technique would deliver drugs where they are needed, avoiding damage to healthy tissue and preventing side effects for patients.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh shone light on tiny semiconductors – smaller versions of materials widely used in electronic gadgets and solar cells – and found that the light was absorbed. The light was able to trigger a reaction which converted an inert chemical compound into a cancer-killing drug.
Researchers say their work paves the way for therapy in which semiconductors – many thousands of times thinner than a human hair – could be administered to patients and carry chemicals to the site of a tumour. There, light could trigger the production of anti-cancer drugs.
Using semiconductors made of particular materials and sizes could allow control of which wavelength of light is used, such as infrared, and when and how much drug is delivered to a tumour.
Scientists believe the method could be much more efficient than conventional drug treatments, allowing patients to be treated with much lower drug doses.
Dr Juan Mareque-Rivas, of the University’s School of Chemistry, who took part in the study, said: “There is much work to be done before our discovery translates into treatment for cancer patients. However, we believe this semiconductor technology could offer a safe and efficient form of chemotherapy.”
For more information please contact:
Dr Juan Mareque-Rivas, School of Chemistry, tel 0131 650 4761; email Juan.Mareque@ed.ac.uk Catriona Kelly, Press and PR Office, tel 0131 651 4401; 07791 355940; email Catriona.Kelly@ed.ac.uk