Building on this work, which was recently published
in Seminars in Cancer Biology 1, my students and I are
currently developing a nanoparticle that contains the
light-activated compound and can target cancer cells
within the human body. When deployed into a patient's
bloodstream, this nanoparticle would seek out and en-
ter the cancer cell, releasing the compound and causing
cell suicide when activated by a very deep-penetrating
wavelength of light.
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and
radiation present the patient with debilitating systemic
side effects, and additional ailments often exclude pa-
tients as candidates for surgery, chemotherapy or radi-
ation. Our ability to cause cell suicide in cancer cells has
the potential to kill any tumour type in a precise man-
ner, without producing damaging side effects to healthy
cells. We're also finding that the mechanism of cell death
may evoke an immune response that could result in the
death of cancer cells outside of the tumour.
Cancer is still the second leading cause of death
globally and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in
2015 2. In spite of advances like early detection, increase
in awareness about the causes of cancer and the devel-
opment of drugs to use the body's immune system to
kill cancer, new cases of cancer each year number in the
tens of millions, with predictions that by 2030 that num-
ber will grow to 21 million new diagnoses and 13 million
deaths annually 3.
With innovation and perseverance, this is a battle we
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1. Gdovin, M.J., Kadri, N., Rios, L., Holliday, S., and Jordan, Z. (2017)
Invited Review: Focal photodynamic intracellular acidification
as a cancer therapeutic. Seminars in Cancer Biology; http://doi.
2. Forman, D., Ferlay J. (2014) The global and regional burden of can-
cer. In World Cancer Report 2014, edited by Stewart, B.W, Wild, C.P.
The World Health Organization.
3. Torre, L.A., Bray, F., Siegel, R.L., Ferlay, J., LortetTieulent, J. and Je-
mal, A., 2015. Global cancer statistics, 2012. CA: a cancer journal for
clinicians, 65(2), pp.87-108.
Triple negative breast cancer cells undergoing light
activated intracellular acidosis.
Light-activated intracellular acidosis nanoparticles
bind to receptors only on the surface of cancer cells,
and after binding will be pulled into the cell. The
light will induce deadly acidosis only inside the
cancer, thereby sparing nearby healthy cells.
UTSA student researchers Yelly Ramirez, Mayuri
Vaidya, and David Sanchez discuss their cancer
technology with Dr. Gdovin.