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New tech to make light work of cancer

Date 31 Oct 2007
Author The Editor

Scientists at Newcastle University have developed a new technology for fighting cancer. The new system uses ultra-violet light to activate antibodies which specifically attack tumours.

Therapeutic antibodies have long been recognised as having excellent potential but getting them to efficiently target tumour cells has proved to be very difficult. Professor Colin Self and Dr Stephen Thompson from Newcastle University have developed a procedure to cloak antibodies which can then be activated by UV-A light and so can be targeted to a specific area of the body just by shining a probe at the relevant part.

The researchers described a possible future scenario in which a cancer sufferer was treated as an outpatient - receiving an injection of antibodies followed by a small dose of light therapy.

BioTransformations Ltd, the company set up by Professor Colin Self to develop the technology, is looking to begin clinical trials on patients with secondary skin cancers in early 2008. However, even if these and the next stage of clinical trials are successful, those familiar with the process said it could be more than a decade before the treatment is available.

Professor Self said: "I would describe this development as the equivalent of ultra-specific magic bullets."

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