Campione tridimensionale di tumore al pancreas illuminato tramite luce laser verde

Tsunamis of light against cancer

Thanks to extreme light waves, it will be possible to concentrate energy precisely and non-invasively in deep tumour tissues. This is the discovery of a research group comprising Sapienza University of Rome, the CNR's Institute of Complex Systems, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli Irccs, which has succeeded in transmitting laser light of extreme intensity through millimetric tumours

Laser light has enormous potential for the study and treatment of tumours. Laser beams that can penetrate deep into tumour regions would be essential for phototherapy, a range of cutting-edge biomedical techniques that use visible and infrared light to treat cancer cells or activate drugs and biochemical processes. However, most biological tissues are optically opaque and absorb incident radiation, which is the main obstacle to phototherapy treatments. Delivering intense, localised beams of light inside cellular structures is therefore one of the key challenges for biophotonics.

A research team of physicists and biotechnologists, led by Davide Pierangeli for the National Research Council, Claudio Conti for Sapienza University of Rome, and Massimiliano Papi for the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and the Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli Irccs, discovered that 'optical tsunamis', light waves of extreme intensity known in many complex systems, can form within tumour cell structures and can be exploited to transmit intense, concentrated laser light through three-dimensional pancreatic tumour samples. 'By studying laser propagation through tumour spheroids,' says Davide Pierangeli, 'we realised that within a sea of weak transmitted light, there were optical modes of extreme intensity. These extreme waves represent a super-intense source of micrometre-sized laser light within the tumour structure. They can be used to activate and manipulate biochemical substances. 'Our study shows how extreme waves, which until now had remained unnoticed in biological structures, can spontaneously transport energy through tissues,' Claudio Conti continues, 'and can be exploited for new biomedical applications.

'With this extreme laser beam,' Massimiliano Papi concludes, 'we could non-invasively probe and treat a specific region of an organ. We have shown how such light can cause targeted temperature increases that induce cancer cell death, and this has important implications for photothermal therapies."

The study, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates a completely new tool for cancer treatment.


Extreme transport of light in spheroids of tumor cells - Davide Pierangeli, Giordano Perini, Valentina Palmieri, Ivana Grecco, Ginevra Friggeri, Marco De Spirito, Massimiliano Papi, Eugenio DelRe, and Claudio Conti - Nature Communications (2023)

Image caption: 

Three-dimensional pancreatic tumour sample illuminated by green laser light. A spot of light of extreme intensity (optical tsunami) can be seen, allowing energy to be transported through the intricate structure of the tumour cells.

Further Information

Claudio Conti
Department of Physics, Sapienza University of Rome

Davide Pierangeli
Institute of Complex Systems, CNR

Massimiliano Papi
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli Irccs


Tuesday, 08 August 2023

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