By Jonathan Olivier | LSU Student
Newly installed equipment at the LSU Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices (CAMD) will allow for more in-depth cancer research that focuses on using x-rays to target malignant cells while leaving healthy tissue unharmed.
Current radiation treatment is effective at eradicating cancer cells, but that comes with the price of damaging healthy cells nearby, something Baton Rouge-based CAMD researchers are aiming to end.
"This type of treatment is very futuristic because we are going to rely a lot on people to develop drugs," said Kenneth Hogstrom, LSU physics and astronomy professor emeritus. "We have to do our part to educate other scientific disciplines, particularly pharmacologist that make cancer drugs, to make them suitable for this type of therapy."
Hogstrom and other researchers will extend results gathered by using old CAMD equipment in studies conducted by LSU grad student Diane Alvarez, said LSU Medical Physics Associate Professor Kip Matthews.
The treatment, titled Auger Electron Therapy, requires a drug with a high atomic number, like iodine, to attach to cancer cell DNA while x-rays emit Auger electrons to eradicate only the targeted genetic material, Hogstrom said.
Specific x-ray wavelengths are being tested at CAMD with a device called a synchrotron: a collection of equipment that uses powerful magnets to speed electrons to nearly 671 million miles per hour. The fast-moving particles emit x-rays, which are focused into research stations, where staff can study results.
A $1.26 million grant by the National Science Foundation enabled the installation of a new multipole wiggler, hardware that will increase the synchrotron's magnetic field and allow the higher x-ray capacity.
"It gives about 10 times as much light and it also allows the energy of the x-ray to be much higher," said CAMD Interim Director Richard Kurtz. "With the higher energy x-ray, [researchers] can better understand what the processers are in the Auger Electron Therapy for cancer."
According to Kurtz, users will begin working with the multipole wiggler in November, but the work stations to produce the cancer research won't be operational until December.
"Everything has to be in very precise alignment – very carefully surveyed and aligned. You have to be careful in engineering beamline components and experimental end stations so that everything fits properly."
Other projects in addition to cancer therapy research, ranging from energy and environment projects to protein crystallography studies, will now be able to move forward with experiments thanks to the upgraded equipment, he said.