Scientists at the University of York in the UK have discovered a potential new treatment for prostate cancer using low-temperature plasmas (LTPs). Published online on April 2, 2015 in an open-access article in the British Journal of Cancer (BJC), the study represents the first time LTPs have been applied on cells grown directly from patient tissue samples. The article title is “Low-Temperature Plasma Treatment Induces DNA Damage Leading to Necrotic Cell Death in Primary Prostate Epithelial Cells.” The study is the result of a unique collaboration between the York Plasma Institute in the Department of Physics and the Cancer Research Unit (CRU) in York's Department of Biology. Taking both healthy prostate cells and prostate cancer tissue cells from a single patient, the study allowed for direct comparison of the effectiveness of the treatment. Scientists discovered that LTPs may be a potential option for treatment of patients with organ-confined prostate cancer, and a viable, more cost-effective alternative to current radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy (PDT) treatments. Low-temperature plasmas are formed by applying a high electric field across a gas using an electrode, which breaks down the gas to form plasma. This creates a complex, unique reactive environment containing high concentrations of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS). Operated at atmospheric pressure and around room temperature, the delivery of RONS, when transferred through plasma to a target source, is a key mediator of oxidative damage and cell death in biological systems. The way cell death occurs when using LTP treatment is different from other therapies. The active agents in the LTP break up DNA and destroy cells by necrosis, where cell membranes are ruptured, resulting in cell death.
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