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Targeted light therapy: A promising new weapon against cancer

Targeted light therapy: A promising new weapon against cancer

Written by  Facing Cancer Together
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Major medical milestones have been reached within the walls of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center, like the development of chemotherapy for cancer and the first treatment of AIDS.

dr-pete-choykeDr. Pete Choyke, the Chief of NCI’s Molecular Imaging Program, is hoping that targeted light therapy, called photoimmunotherapy, will lead to another medical milestone in the treatment of cancer.  He says, “We stumbled upon something that could kill cancer cells but leave normal cells alone using a light therapy that is completely harmless.  It’s using the same energy that comes out of a flashlight.”  This research he says is “Astounding.”

The research has only been tested on mice and has yet to be tested on humans.  But if it is successful, it could change the way that many cancers are treated and also eliminate many of the harmful side effects of treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.  

light-therapyHe says that these treatments take a “sledgehammer” approach, which effect both the cancer cells and normal cells.  Many patients have debilitating side-effects like GI problems and hair loss because of this.

Watch the video to see how this exciting new research works to target cancer sells and shrink tumors.

The new light therapy has proven to be safe in mice, as there is no toxicity and heat.  But, the next step is to begin a clinical trial in which it’s tested on humans.  Dr. Choyke says that there are differences between animals and people and that one has to be cautiously optimistic about outcomes.  But, if it is a success, he sees endless opportunities to help people.


Learn more about exciting technology, cancer research and clinical trials.  And, find out more about how research and technology are making cancer care more personalized for the patient in this community forum.

Learn about another exciting research project taking place at the NCI in which a team of researchers is working each day to understand more about cancer.  Dr. Kathy Cronin tracks our progress as a nation as a data analyst with NCI’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program.  Watch a video about the program’s efforts to track cancer and analyze the data that has been gathered since it’s launch in 1973.  

The NCI will continue working to fully understand the molecular basis of cancer and turn this research into new ways to prevent, diagnose, treat and screen for this deadly disease.

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