General
04 Nov 2011

Open University research advances cancer treatment

A new way to dramatically improve the cancer-killing abilities of clinical cancer treatment has been pioneered by a team of researchers from The Open University, together with colleagues at the National Medical Laser Centre.

Current cancer treatments include photodynamic therapy (PDT), which uses a combination of laser light and a photosensitizer drug to kill illuminated cancer cells, and is widely used for skin, breast and neck cancers. Many cancer cells however have elevated levels of antioxidants that partially protect them against treatments such as PDT and radiotherapy.

The research team, led by Dr Jon Golding, Lecturer in Health Sciences at The Open University, used antioxidant inhibitor drugs to overcome the antioxidant defences of breast cancer cells, resulting in a significantly improved cell kill. He explained: “Because we are able to target cancerous cells more effectively, we expect an improved prognosis for cancer suffers. We selected antioxidant inhibitor drugs that are already clinically licensed, so it should speed up the adoption of these important findings into clinical practice.”

The study, “Antioxidant Inhibitors Potentiate the Cytotoxicity of Photodynamic Therapy”, was published in top PDT journal, Photochemistry and Photobiology. A reviewer of the work noted that the team’s work is “opening a new and more sophisticated PDT field”.

The other members of the research team are Drs Stanley Kimani, James Phillips and James Bruce, all from The Open University, and Dr Sandy MacRobert of the National Medical Laser Centre at University College, London.

Editor’s Notes
• Dr Stanley Kimani performed most of this work for his Open University PhD. He is now based at the Wellman Institute for Photomedicine at Harvard Medical School in the USA, one of the best PDT research institutes in the world.

• The OU supports a vibrant research portfolio and in the UK's last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), the University climbed 23 places to 43rd, securing a place in the UK's top 50 higher education institutions. Results showed that more than 50% of the University’s research is internationally excellent (3*), with a significant proportion world-leading (4*).

• The Open University is the UK’s largest university and the world leader in distance education, and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. It has more than 260,000 students in over 40 countries. Of these, some 1,200 are postgraduate research students.

• The latest edition of the Open University’s Research Highlights brochure can be downloaded from: www.open.ac.uk/research/research-highlights.

• Open Research Online (ORO), the University’s freely accessible repository of research publications, is available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk. Since its launch in 2006, it has been visited by over 1.6 million people from more than 200 countries, and is currently ranked the fifth best higher education repository in the UK by the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

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