Minimally invasive technique kills cancer without harming healthy cells

A minimally invasive technique developed at Purdue University could help doctors treat cancerous cells, tissues and tumors without affecting nearby healthy cells.

Dubbed PLASMAT – Plasma Technologies for a Healthier Tomorrow – the method combines three emerging techniques that show promise in the fight against most types of cancer.

cancerous cells
PLASMAT combines three emerging techniques that appear promising in the fight against cancer.(Image: Prasoon Diwakar)

PLASMAT is said to combine cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) with electroporation and/or photoporation to eradicate cancerous cells without harming nearby healthy ones. Purdue add that the method has proven effective in the laboratory against several types of cancerous cells and cancer lines, including types of breast cancer, mouth/cervical cancer and prostate cancer.

CAP, a near room temperature ionized gas, is used to introduce active oxygen or nitrogen species into the cancerous cells, tissues or tumors. An electric field or a laser is used to open the membranes of the cells for introduction of the species. This introduction leads to the destruction of cancer cells once a critical level of reactive species is reached. Nearby healthy cells are either unaffected or minimally affected.

“Using these three techniques in a combined method has been shown to be 70 to 90 per cent more effective in killing cancerous cells than other treatments,” said Prasoon Diwakar, a postdoctoral research associate in the Purdue School of Nuclear Engineering, who developed PLASMAT with Ahmed Hassanein, the Paul L. Wattelet Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering. “We are using the synergy of these three treatments to provide an efficient, non-toxic and cost-effective approach to fight cancer with minimal chemical and toxic effects.”

The US National Cancer Institute reports that around 5,000 new cancers are diagnosed each day. Current treatments of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery have proven effective, but can be expensive, weaken the immune system and not work well for all patients.

Diwakar said PLASMAT does not introduce chemicals into the body during treatment and is significantly less expensive than chemotherapy or radiation. The technique is also said to be more mobile than traditional cancer treatments because the required equipment is small and easily accessible in most medical settings.

“Our method is easy to integrate with existing method technologies,” Diwakar said. “PLASMAT can be combined with nanomedicines for further effective cancer treatment.”

A patent application has been filed by the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialisation, and the method is available for licensing.

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