Health Watch - Cancer Advances: Cooking Cancer

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This week on Health Watch, we’ve been talking about recent advances in cancer research, including how to predict, prevent and treat cancer. One problem with many current cancer treatments is that they not only kill cancer cells, but they also kill healthy cells. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have developed a way to selectively kill cancer cells by essentially cooking them.

The treatment involves molecules called monoclonal antibodies, which bind themselves to structures on cancer cells. Researchers coated tiny carbon tubes with these antibodies. The carbon tubes heat up when they’re exposed to near-infrared light — the kind of light used by television remote controls to connect to the TV. The antibodies bind the tubes to cancer cells, and when they’re exposed to near-infrared light, the tubes heat up and cook the cells. Dr. Ellen Vitetta, a UT Southwestern cancer immunobiologist, says normal tissues don’t absorb much near-infrared light, so the treatment is specific to cancer cells.

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February 2009

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