SDSM&T research is giving hope to lung cancer patients through cold plasma technology
Work being done at the SDSM&T could mean a way to kill cancer cells – lung cancer month.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — A team of researchers and students at the SDSM&T are experimenting new ways to regulate cold plasma technology to target and kill cancer cells. Cold plasma is often called the fourth state of matter. It’s essentially a cocktail of electrons, ions, gasses and reactive chemical species.
SD Mines assistant professor Prasoon Diwakar, Ph.D., of the mechanical engineering department, says, “So basically we are trying to work on developing a technique where we can treat cancer without using expensive treatment methods or chemicals – so nontoxic methods. And we are trying to go as local as possible, so we can have a localized treatment. And as we see most cancer treatments use a lot of chemicals — chemotherapy for example — that weakens the body … it’s painful and also they are not very effective a lot of times. So that is the goal, to create a technique which is nontoxic, more affordable and can be applied locally to the body.”
The technique combines two methods, first, electroporation which opens up the pores, puncturing holes in the cells. Second, the cold plasma is applied and interacts with the cancer cells, killing them without killing the healthy cells. Right now, the project is in the developing phase but once its is ready, it will cut down the cost of treatment and produces a more localized and more effective treatment. The team is focusing on lung cancer, but may apply the technique to other kinds of cancer in the future.
Timothy Brenza, Ph.D., of the chemical and biological engineering department, says, “We are going to be faced with the technological challenge of delivering this in a patient and so there is going to be some steps in development. But this is the first step on what could be a really interesting project and really beneficial for patients.”
The other uniqueness of this project is capability of two departments working together.
Chemical and biological engineering PhD student Jordan Hoops, says, “Working with students in the mechanical engineering department and my background is in biological responses, so seeing how the different disciplines think differently, different thought process.”
Undergraduate mechanical engineering student, Kristen Haller, says, “Either of us on either side, the mechanical engineering or the biological side, wouldn’t have enough expertise to make this project work. And to advance it in the ways that we are able to do it; it’s really interesting to see how we can work together.”
Even though this breakthrough is just the tip of the iceberg, it is giving great experience to students but also hope to lung cancer patients.
Hoops says, “I think other people in the community who have heard about the research, who have been effected by lung cancer, are really excited about it.”