Researchers from the cancer nanotechnology and signal transduction and therapeutics programmes of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centre (JCCC) have developed an innovative technique that can carry chemotherapy safely and release it inside cancer cells when triggered by two-photon laser in the infrared red wavelength.

Dr Jeffrey Zink, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Dr Fuyu Tamanoi, professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and colleagues published their findings in the journal Small.

A light-activated drug delivery system is particularly promising, because it can accomplish spatial and temporal control of drug release, reports Medical News Today. Finding ways to deliver and release anticancer drugs in a controlled manner that only hits the tumour can greatly reduce the amount of side effects from treatment, and also greatly increase the cancer-killing efficacy of the drugs.

The difficulty of treating cancer often derives from the difficulties of getting anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs to tumor cells without damaging healthy tissue in the process. Many cancer patients experience treatment side effects that are the result of drug exposure to healthy tissues.

A major challenge in the development of light-activated drug delivery is to design a system that can respond to tissue-penetrating light. Dr Tamanoi and Dr Zink joined their diverse teams and collaborated with Dr Jean-Olivier Durand at University of Montpellier, France, to develop a new type of microscopic particles (nanoparticles) that can absorb energy from tissue-penetrating light that releases drugs in cancer cells.

"We have a wonderful collaboration," said Zink. "When the JCCC brings together totally diverse fields, in this case a physical chemist and a cell signaling scientist, we can do things that neither one could do alone."

Tamanoi added: "Our collaboration with scientists at Charles Gerhardt Institute was important to the success of this two-photon activated technique, which provides controls over drug delivery to allow local treatment that dramatically reduces side effects."