Plasma-laser combo method for treating cancer is minimally invasive

The method combines cold atmospheric plasma with a laser to kill cancerous cells without harming nearby healthy ones.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2018 05 Plasmat Web

Knowing that chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can be expensive, weaken the immune system, and not work well for all cancer patients, a team of researchers at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) has developed a minimally invasive technique that may help doctors better explore and treat cancerous cells, tissues, and tumors without affecting nearby healthy cells.

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The method, called PLASMAT (Plasma Technologies for a Healthier Tomorrow), combines cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) with electroporation and/or photoporation to kill cancerous cells without harming nearby healthy ones. The method has proven effective in the laboratory against several types of cancerous cells and cancer lines, including types of breast cancer, mouth/cervical cancer, and prostate cancer.

CAP, a near room-temperature ionized gas, is used to introduce active oxygen or nitrogen species into the cancerous cells, tissues, or tumors. An electric field or a laser is used to open the membranes of the cells for introduction of the species. This introduction leads to apoptosis (killing) of cancer cells once a critical level of reactive species is reached. Nearby healthy cells are either unaffected or minimally affected to a point they are able to easily restore themselves to a normal level.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2018 05 Plasmat Web
PLASMAT combines three emerging techniques that appear promising in the fight against most types of cancer. (Courtesy of the Purdue School of Nuclear Engineering)

"Using these three techniques in a combined method has been shown to be 70% to 90% more effective in killing cancerous cells than other treatments," says Prasoon Diwakar, a postdoctoral research associate in the Purdue School of Nuclear Engineering, who developed PLASMAT along with Ahmed Hassanein, the Paul L. Wattelet Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering.

Diwakar says PLASMAT does not introduce chemicals into the body during treatment and is significantly less expensive than chemotherapy or radiation. The technique is also more mobile than traditional cancer treatments because the required equipment is small and easily accessible in most medical settings.

"Our method is easy to integrate with existing method technologies," Diwakar says. "PLASMAT can be combined with nanomedicines for further effective cancer treatment."

A patent application has been filed by the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, and the method is available for licensing.

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