A recently published Japanese study conducted by university oncologists shows improved outcomes for certain mesothelioma patients who undergo near-infrared irradiation treatment used in combination with a cancer-targeting compound. The experiment, which was conducted on laboratory mice, as well as human cells with malignant mesothelioma found that near-infrared photoimmunotherapy was an effective and low-risk method for killing cancer cells without harming the surrounding tissues.
Conducted by Nagoya University, the treatment on the subjects utilized a cancer-targeting antibody compound, designed to a specific structure on the cancer cells, and a photo-absorber called IR700. When the near-infrared light is shone on the cancer-infected part of the body, the antibody compound aggregates on the membranes of the tumor cells, which ruptures the cells and kills the tumor.
“The lungs and chest cavity contain a large amount of air and are thus very good at effectively transmitting near-infrared light,” says Kazuhide Sato of Nagoya University. “NIR-PIT is a safe phototherapy option that can target a region of interest. The antibody-IR700 conjugate is also non-toxic to the body in the absence of near-infrared light irradiation. We thus thought that NIR-PIT could be an effective strategy for controlling localized MPM.”
The key to the treatment working on malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects the thin linings of tissue surrounding the lungs, is for scientists to develop an antibody compound that will target the specific cells of the cancer. In this study, the researchers looked at an antibody called NZ-1, which targets a part of the cell membrane called podoplanin and is particularly abundant in malignant pleural mesothelioma.
The oncologists found that when injected into tumor cells, NZ-1 with IR700 accumulated in the tumors. When shining near-infrared light on the tumors, the researchers observed reduced fluorescence on the cells, which indicated that the target cells were absorbing the infrared light. With those observations, the researchers determined that the treatment worked well as an anti-cancer treatment.
While the research showed that the treatment could be a promising method to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma, the researchers concluded that further studies would be necessary in order to ensure healthy human tissue was not harmed by the near infrared light. One possible treatment brought up was using a more focused beam of light shone into a drainage device inserted into the patient’s chest cavity.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer directly linked with exposure to asbestos, which was once used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and residential applications. Unfortunately for those working with asbestos-laden components, they were unaware that the substance is a deadly carcinogen.
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