Miya, a yellow lab, wears "doggles" after receiving a porphysome infusion at the Ontario Veterinary College Health Sciences Centre. (Photo: University of Guelph)

An innovative "seek and destroy" alternative to cancer surgery for people and pets is being tested for the first time this year at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

Combining nanotechnology developed at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and laser light therapy, the new technique may ultimately offer a targeted, non-surgical way to diagnose and treat tumours while preventing overtreatment and reducing common side effects, says Dr. Michelle Oblak, a veterinary surgeon oncologist and professor in U of G's Department of Clinical Studies.

The first trial on a patient occurred in late February with a 10-year-old beagle named Shiloh.

The treatment combines light-activated nanoparticles called porphysomes along with photodynamic therapy (PDT).

PDT, or use of laser light to destroy tumours, is not new, says Dr. Oblak. But this is the first pairing of PDT with this new nanoparticle technology developed by a researcher at UHN.

"This is such an exciting opportunity to have an impact on how cancer is treated in both humans and pets, and to be involved in such an incredibly innovative idea and invention," says Dr. Oblak, whose team plans to recruit 10 canine patients for this year's clinical trial.

"It's motivating for us to continue the work we're doing. This could change the way we treat and diagnose cancer in the future."

The U of G team is working with researchers at the Princess Margaret, including head and neck surgeon Dr. Jonathan Irish and Dr. Gang Zheng, the inventor of this technology.

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