Lasers and Bacteria

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and STEBA Biotech have announced the success of the unique method they developed to fight prostate cancer. This treatment, which the group of expects called “transformative,” has shown promising results.

Under development since 2011, vascular targeted photodynamic therapy (VPT), as the procedure is called, is carried out in a two-step process. Patients are first introduced to WST11 — a compound extracted from some benthic bacteria, or bacteria that dwell at the bottom of the sea. These bacteria are particularly special, though, as they are highly light-sensitive.

Optical fibers are then inserted through an area called the perineum, found between the the testes and the anus, and directly into the prostate gland. Afterwards, the scientists turn on a red laser that is induced through the optical fibers. This process utilizes the photosensitivity of the WST11 drug and activates it. Upon activation, free radicals are released within the area, attacking and destroying the tumors. Unlike conventional treatments which might affect a general area of body cells, this treatment is localized. The nearby cells are left more or less unharmed.

Jeff Pachoud/Getty Images

Jeff Pachoud/Getty Images

Beating The Big ‘C’

The trial for this prostate cancer treatment has shown promising results. Endgadget reports that, from the 415 participating men, nearly half were rid of the malignant disease by the end of treatment. This is a huge improvement compared to conventional procedures, which only have an average success rate of about 14 percent. Of those that had cancer in remission, only six percent needed to have their affected prostate removed, which is again a stark contrast to the conventional procedures’ 30 percent.

Though this news is indeed exciting, the experts of the study did say that the VPT was most effective in cases that had low-to-medium risks. In dealing with higher risk cases, some techniques still needed to be improved.

Lead researcher Mark Emberton from the University College London hospital, however, seems confident in the method. “This is truly a huge leap forward for prostate cancer treatment…In prostate cancer, we are still commonly removing or irradiating the whole prostate, so the success of this new tissue-preserving treatment is welcome news indeed”

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