26.02.20

Uni of Sheffield scientists synthesize new compound to improve PDT

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) could see its success rate when treating cancer improve after researchers at the University of Sheffield successfully synthesized a new compound which can address two of the most common drawbacks with the treatment.

PDT relies on a compound known as a sensitizer, a light-sensitive medicine given to the patients, which when activated by light produces highly reactive oxygen-based species which kill the cancer cells.

However, at present, PDT has two main drawbacks when it comes to killing tumours. Firstly, currently used sensitizers are only activated by light energies which do not penetrate tissues, such as skin, very deeply.

Many tumours also have low amounts of oxygen, so photoactivated sensitizers cannot generate the toxic compounds which kill cancer cells.

The newly-synthesized compound discovered by the University of Sheffield researchers, meanwhile, addresses these two common flaws. Being activated by infrared light, which can penetrate deep into the tumour, the new compound also directly damages DNA within cells without having to rely on oxygen.

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Researchers tested the compound in skin cancer tumour models and observed that it killed cancer cells deep into these model tumours. The next step for the research process will be looking at skin models, testing whether the compound is able to effectively kill the tumour but leave healthy skin cells undamaged.

Professor Jim Thomas, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemistry, led the study and said of the discovery: “PDT is potentially a very attractive way to treat diseases such as skin cancer as it only works when the laser light is applied, so the effect can be focused into a specific place on or in the body.

“The sensitizer we have developed can potentially solve the two main problems that prevent PDT from being a commonly used anticancer treatment.”

Published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the research was carried out by scientists from the University of Sheffield’s Departments of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Central Laser Facility.

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