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Killing Cancer With Salt

Killing Cancer With Salt

Chemists fry tumors in low oxygen environments.

Killing Cancer with Salt

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 19:15

Inside Science Television

(Inside Science) -- More than 12 million Americans live with some kind of cancer and researchers are constantly looking for new ways to stop this deadly disease. Now, scientists at the University of Central Florida are experimenting with a new therapy that uses salt to kill cancer cells. 

One therapy for treating cancer involves shining lasers on light-sensitive materials to kill nearby cancer cells in the presence of oxygen. But, according to chemist Kevin Belfield from the University of Central Florida, “most tumor cells become hypoxic or have low oxygen concentrations.” Without the necessary oxygen, the lasers cannot kill the cancer cells.

Belfield found a way around the lack of oxygen by adding a form of salt to the cancer cells. Now, when a laser shines on the cells, it changes their chemistry, making them more acidic.

“The super acid is generated within a cell, and it creates a pH imbalance within a cell,” said Belfield.

That imbalance helps kill the cancerous cells with or without oxygen. 

“So, oxygen can be present, and it works just fine or oxygen can be absent, and it works just fine,” said Belfield. 

Researchers believe that this new acid-inducing cancer therapy can kill colon, breast, prostate, ovarian and melanoma cancer cells. However, the therapy does need a light source to work properly, so tumors buried deep within the body may not be suitable. 

The technique may start clinical trials soon. 

Get Inside the Science:

Killing Cancer Cells with Acid Reflux

Kevin Belfield, University of Central Florida

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