In order to discover the effectiveness of any anti-tumor agent, researchers must first test cancer cells in their deadly formation clusters known as tumors. The transparent capsule which is 0.5mm in diameter), is formed by mixing individual cells with a polymer solution. Cells flourish within this capsule and they can take whatever they need to survive from the outside since the permeability of the polymer shell can vary the thickness of the wall, allowing various substances to reach the cells.
The small size of the model tumor is extremely helpful for the purposes of study in terms of observing its growth and testing new therapies. This particular model is used for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), which was developed in the 1980s as a cancer treatment involving three components; a photo-synthesizer, light and tissue oxygen. Although still under investigation, PDT is being considered as a treatment for psoriasis and is considered an approved treatment for macular degeneration.
Photodynamic therapy is also known as photo-radiation therapy, phototherapy, or photo-chemotherapy. First utilized but not fully explored more than one hundred years ago as a treatment for cancer, the technique entails the use of drugs, called photosensitizing agents that when combined with light kill cancer cells. The drugs will only work after they have been activated by certain kinds of light. The photosensitizing agent can be injected either in the bloodstream or applied directly on the skin, depending on the body part being treated.
Is there light at the end of the cancer tunnel?
We can certainly hope so and that more will soon be revealed about the potential healing powers of PDT.