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OU professors advance non-invasive cancer therapy research

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Roger Harrison and Daniel Resasco

Biochemical engineering professors Roger Harrison (left) and Daniel Resasco (right) developed a non-invasive cancer therapy using carbon nanotubes. The therapy will be able to treat bladder cancer, breast cancer and melanoma, along with other cancers.

Two OU professors have developed a non-invasive cancer therapy that targets cancer cells with carbon nanotubes.

Biochemical engineering professors Daniel Resasco and Roger Harrison said the therapy has great potential to treat bladder cancer, breast cancer and melanoma.

The therapy’s targeting capabilities make it a unique treatment, Harrison said. The nanotubes are singular tubes that have a protein that has a high selectivity for cancer cells and blood vessels that go through the tumor, he said.

Harrison said that once the therapy is ready to use in clinical trials, it will most likely first be applied to bladder cancer, a condition for which OU's biomedical engineering center funded research.

“We think that could be the first application, because the nanotubes don’t have to be injected into the bloodstream — they can be injected into the bladder,” he said.

The nanotubes are injected into the bladder, then bind to the cancer tumors, Harrison said. Once there, he said, the nanotubes are essentially heated up by near-infrared, invisible light, and therefore destroy cancer cells.

“We think that is the quickest way to apply this; the most rapid route to use would be that way,” Harrison said.

The carbon nanotubes for this therapy have to be made with exact conditions, Resasco said.

“The diameter of this tube is 100,000 times thinner than a human hair,” he said.

“When we use a laser with that wavelength, only the nanotubes get hot — (nothing else) gets hot, so you only kill the cells that are in the tumor,” Resasco said.

The therapy has been patented internationally with the help of Chris Corbett, an OU researcher in the technology transfer department, Harrison said.

“We are in the process of contacting companies and having exchanges with them about moving forward. I think we’re at a good point now that we have this strong patent position,” Harrison said.

The therapy was first discussed between the two professors about eight years ago, Harrison said. Since then, the therapy has been funded by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology, the U.S. Department of Defense Cancer Research Program Concept Award and the U.S. Department of Energy, Harrison said.

“That really got us ahead of steam, and we could really accomplish a lot. And it was difficult — you can have an idea, but then you have to put it into practice, so doing it was difficult — but we did it,” he said.

“I think it’s great when you have an idea that turns out to be a good idea, and you can move forward and maybe benefit the public in some way. It’s a great feeling,” Harrison said.

Bryce McElhaney is a journalism junior and senior reporter at the Daily, and co-founder of OKFolks Magazine. His past includes the Journal Record Legislative Report and the OCCC Pioneer.

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