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'Light bandage' fights cancer cells

U.K. researchers have come up with an adaptation of Photodynamic Therapy.

The day may soon come when treating some forms of skin cancer is as simple as putting on a Band-Aid.

Researchers in Scotland have come up with a "light bandage" that contains its own light source and is so portable patients can go about their daily business while undergoing treatment. The invention is the brainchild of University of St. Andrews physics Professor Ifor Samuel (pictured) and dermatology consultant Professor James Ferguson, head of the photobiology unit at Ninewells Hospital Dundee.

Samuel with bandage

The bandage puts a new technological twist on Photodynamic Therapy, a two-step process involving the application of a photosensitive drug followed by controlled exposure to a selective light source that activates the drug and destroys diseased cells.

"By adapting the latest technology to an existing treatment method, we have developed a compact light source for treating common skin cancers," Samuel said. "It can be worn by the patient in a similar way to a sticking plaster, while the battery is carried like an iPod."

The light is generated by an organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, and is a spin-off of Samuel's work on advanced displays. The patented technology has been licensed to a company called Lumicure, which is in discussions with venture capitalists to raise funds for commercializing the product.

In addition to treating skin cancers, the researchers believe the technology could be used in the cosmetic industry for anti-aging treatments, or for conditions such as acne.

(Photo: Alan Richardson)