School Of Mines Researchers Target Lung Cancer With Cool Plasma
Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are looking at new chemical-free treatments for cancer. The School of Mines has been researching the efficacy of using cold plasma to destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact.
Dr. Prasoon Diwakar is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the School of Mines. He says their goal is to come up with a more effective and less toxic treatment option.
Dr. Diwakar says most available cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, are expensive and can destroy healthy cells along with cancer cells.
He says they are combining two approaches: using short electrical pulses – or electroporation – to open the pores, and cool plasma to selectively target cancer cells.
“Preliminary results have shown that we are able to kill lung cancer, which we have started working on at the School of Mines. We are able to effectively kill the cells but now our next goal is to find out, what are the main mechanisms,” says Diwakar.
Diwakar says understanding the mechanisms causing death in affected cells will enable them to optimize the process and target different kinds of cancer.
Dr. Timothy Brenza is an assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering at the School of Mines.
Dr. Brenza says he is approaching this research from a drug delivery standpoint, with a specific interest in treating lung cancer.
He says they are looking at different kinds of lung cancer and trying to quantify how effective the treatment is. He says they haven’t seen advancements in the survivability of lung cancer as opposed to other types of cancer, but this approach addresses a common problem with traditional treatments.
“Part of that is trying to get our, either radiation or our chemical chemotherapeutic, concentrations to the areas of cancer at high enough quantities for effectiveness with the patient still being able to tolerate the amount of drugs and radiation that they need to be exposed to,” says Brenza.
Brenza says there is ongoing research to make chemotherapeutic drugs more targeted but using cold plasma with electroporation is a unique approach.
He says this is a good first step but there are still technological advancements needed to deliver this treatment in a non-surgical fashion.