Infrared light offers promise of laser-sharp cancer therapy | Science News



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Infrared light offers promise of laser-sharp cancer therapy

Technique zaps tumors with reduced risk of side effects

5:27pm, August 27, 2012

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.

The just-patented system under development at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada delivers 1,000 pulses of infrared light per second, each lasting only about 100 quadrillionths of a second, explains laser physicist and study coauthor Daniel Houde

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