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Infrared light offers promise of laser-sharp cancer therapy

Technique zaps tumors with reduced risk of side effects

Claiming scalpel-like precision, Canadian scientists have delivered lightning-fast laser pulses of infrared light to obliterate tumors in animals. Whereas conventional radiation therapy delivers cell-killing radiation to all cells throughout a beam’s path, the new approach causes no damage to tissue surrounding a targeted tumor, its creators say.

The spillover damage to healthy bystander cells triggers the nausea and other side effects associated with conventional radiation therapy, explains Nancy Ellerbroek, a clinical radiation oncologist in Manhattan Beach, Calif. So, if the new technology can treat tumors deep inside the body without exposing healthy tissue, “that would be really great,” she says.

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