Light on the fight against cancer

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Researcher Professor Tebello Nyokong is generating international interest in refining photodynamic therapy techniques used to treat cancer.

Professor Tebello Nyokong. (Supplied)

Nyokong is a multi-award winning research professor from Rhodes University. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a technique that uses laser treatment to activate the drugs to kill off specific cancer cells. These drugs are designed to treat only the infected organs, thereby eliminating side effects common in chemotherapy treatments that are not as specific. 

Through the Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology, Nyokong’s group has been developing techniques and drugs to improve the efficacy of PDT treatments that promise to overtake traditional methods such as chemotherapy.

These benefits have led to increased interest in this alternative treatment, although it is by no means fully developed or accepted yet. Nyokong is working on improving techniques, as well as drugs that are effective in treating specific cancers.

“This is a unique area of research in South Africa that has positioned the country as an important research hub in the global fight against cancer. Most notably, we have conducted tests on locally-developed drugs to treat breast cancer and oesophageal cancer cells,” Nyokong says.

“We have taken this a step further by producing drugs that combine the treatment of cancer with nanotechnology by producing nano-particles that are more effective at targeting specific cancer cells. This means the drugs are can be targeted more specifically at the cancer cells while simultaneously delivering the cure,” she adds

This supplement has been paid for by Department of Science and Technology and its contents signed off by the DST and the National Research Foundation.

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