Besides surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the foundation of modern day cancer treatment. Although effective, these therapies often have debilitating and damaging side effects. But scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland have been experimenting with a new form of therapy using infrared light to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors without damaging healthy tissue.
The photoimmunotherapy (PIT) treatment works by combining cancer-specific antibodies with a fluorescent dye. A near infrared light is then administered which heats up the dye, burns a hole in the cancer cell is has attached to, and essentially kills it.
Scientists have targeted tumor cells in mice by using the antibodies that bind to proteins that are often over-expressed in cancers. The researchers specifically targeted HER2, a protein over-expressed by some breast cancers; EGFR, which is over-expressed by some lung, pancreatic, and colon cancers; and PSMA, which is over-expressed by prostate cancers.