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New treatment found for prostate cancer

Posted April 13, 2015
Operating room. Image credit: Dr. Jayesh Amin via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Operating room. Image credit: Dr. Jayesh Amin via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Low-temperature plasmas could be a potential new treatment for prostate cancer. Developed by the scientists at the University of York, this treatment method could be effective in patients with organ-confined prostate cancer, and a viable, cheaper alternative to radiation and photodynamic therapies.

Currently, focal therapies, such as cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy and radiotherapy, are the common treatment options for early-stage organ-confined tumours. However, the disease recurs in as many as a third of patients following radiotherapy because cells develop treatment resistance. LPT method has been found to overcome this problem.

In the study, scientists applied LPTs on cells developed from patients’ tissue samples. Taking both the healthy prostate cells and the prostate cancer tissue cells from a single patient helped them compare and evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment—reports a press release from the University of York.

The study was carried out by the York Plasma Institute in the Department of Physics in collaboration with the Cancer Research Unit (CRU) in York’s Department of Biology. Findings of the study have been published in a paper in the British Journal of Cancer (BJC).

In order to create low-temperature plasmas, a gas is subjected to a high electric field using an electrode, which ionises the gas to form plasma. The resulting environment contains a mix of positive and negative charges. When operated at atmospheric pressure and around room temperature, it produces high concentrations of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS). Delivering this RONS through plasma to a target source leads to oxidative damage and cell death in biological systems—explains the paper.

Conventional therapies prompt cells to die through natural mechanisms, which may cause the cells to develop treatment resistance. In contrast, LTPs break up DNA and destroy cells by rupturing the cell membranes.

Adam Hirst, a PhD student at the York Plasma Institute who has been working with Dr Fiona Frame on the project, said: “Through this research we have found that LTPs induce high levels of DNA damage, which leads in turn to a substantial reduction in colony forming ability, and ultimately necrotic cell death. Using clinically relevant, close-to-patient samples, we have presented the first experimental evidence promoting the potential of LTP as a future focal cancer therapy treatment for patients with early-stage prostate cancer.”

Going forward, the scientists plan to test the LTP treatment on three-dimensional replica tumours. The treatment is likely to be available within 10-15 years if all the subsequent trials are a success.

By: Uma Gupta, Contributing Author for Technology.Org

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