March 16, 2009

Scientists study cancer cell death

New British medical images show the viscosity of cancer cells increases dramatically when they die, providing insights into cancer cell death.

Researchers from Imperial College London said the images reveal the physical changes that occur inside cancer cells while they are dying as a result of Photodynamic Therapy -- a cancer treatment that uses light to activate a drug that creates a short-lived toxic type of oxygen, called singlet oxygen, which kills cancerous cells.

The research team says revealing what happens to viscosity within a dying cancer cell is important since it might lead to more efficient drugs for Photodynamic Therapy and other treatments.

We're still not quite sure exactly what the relationship is between increased stickiness inside cells and disease, but we expect that the two are related, said lead author Marina Kuimova of ICL's chemistry department. Knowing more about these changes, and being able to map them when they occur in all kinds of different scenarios, from dying cancer cells to diseased blood cells, could help us to better understand how some diseases and their treatments affect cell and organ function.

The study is reported in the journal Nature Chemistry.