UT Arlington physics professor may have discovered new way to treat cancer

Posted Saturday, May. 17, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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A University of Texas at Arlington physics professor believes his research team may have unintentionally stumbled upon a more efficient way to treat cancer through nanotechnology.

Wei Chen, who is co-director of UT Arlington’s Center for Security Advances via Applied Nanotechnology, or SAVANT, was working to create a light-emitting nanoparticle for use in security-related radiation detection. But Chen found that when the copper-cysteamine complex he created in his lab was exposed to X-rays, it started emitting a toxic byproduct called singlet oxygen that can be used to damage cancer cells in photodynamic therapy.

More testing found that the nanoparticles, called Cu-Cy, significantly slowed tumor growth when combined with X-ray exposure in lab studies involving human breast and prostate cancer cells, according to UT Arlington, which has filed a provisional patent application on the complex.

Chen, who is also leading federally funded cancer research, called the findings promising.

“This new idea is simpler and better than previous photodynamic therapy methods. You don’t need as many steps. This material alone can do the job,” Chen said in a press release issued by the university.

The new nanoparticle has low toxicity to healthy cells, according to Chen’s research.

Chen’s research is scheduled to be published in the August edition of the Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology. Lun Ma, a research assistant professor, and Xiaoju Zou, a research associate, co-authored the article, titled, “A New X-Ray Activated Nanoparticle Photosensitizer for Cancer Treatment.”

— Susan Schrock

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