Master's student takes top thesis competition while tackling prostate cancer research

Dec 17, 2010

The future of cancer treatment and a University of Alberta graduate student's personal career prospects are looking bright. Weiyang Liu beat competitors from 80 of the best university graduate schools in western North America with his master's thesis on the use of a light-sensitive drug to treat prostate cancer.

Liu, a U of A electrical engineering student, had his research reviewed internally at the U of A and was put forward as the university's sole entry into the annual master's thesis competition sponsored by the Western Association of Graduate Schools, which represents some 80 university graduate schools located in western Canada and the United States. He is part of the university's interdisciplinary team developing a two-technology treatment that specifically targets a cancerous .

Liu says the combination of drug treatment and the fibre-optics system could one day replace the long-standing treatments alternatives, chemotherapy or surgery. "Our prostate cancer drug is injected into a patient, but only begins killing cells when it's activated or turned on by , which is guided by tiny fibre-optic cables that have been inserted into the patient's prostate gland," said Liu. "This delivers the cancer treatment right to the prostate, unlike chemotherapy, which attacks the whole body."

And, unlike chemotherapy, Liu says the light-activated drug produces a natural cell death, which breaks down the in the prostate gland for normal absorption of dead cells by the patient's body. Statistics show that one in six Canadian men will require prostate cancer treatment. In his award-winning thesis, Liu also discussed the patient's fallout from surgical removal of the prostate. The surgical procedure can leave patients incontinent and impotent. "The high cost of surgery and the hospital stay can be avoided with photo-dynamic therapy," he says.

The drug component of the new treatment is already in clinical trials and the U of A team is hopeful that the fibre-optic light therapy will be added to human testing sometime next year. Liu and his supervising U of A professors, John Tulip and Ronald Moore, will travel to San Diego in March to receive the award. "I'm very proud that we won, when you consider the competition in western North America. We were up against large California schools like UCLA, CalTech and UC Berkeley," said Liu.

Explore further: DNA blood test detects lung cancer mutations

Related Stories

Growth factor receptor affects prostate cancer progression

Dec 10, 2007

Breeding mice with a gene for a cellular receptor that can be turned on and off-at will-not only enabled researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to show how prostate cancer progresses, but also provides a model ...

Recommended for you

DNA blood test detects lung cancer mutations

21 hours ago

Cancer DNA circulating in the bloodstream of lung cancer patients can provide doctors with vital mutation information that can help optimise treatment when tumour tissue is not available, an international group of researchers ...

Tumors prefer the easy way out

Apr 17, 2015

Tumor cells become lethal when they spread. Blocking this process can be a powerful way to stop cancer. Historically, scientists thought that tumor cells migrated by brute force, actively pushing through whatever ...

Brain tumors may be new targets of Ebola-like virus

Apr 17, 2015

Brain tumors are notoriously difficult for most drugs to reach, but Yale researchers have found a promising but unlikely new ally against brain cancers—portions of a deadly virus similar to Ebola.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ironjustice
not rated yet Dec 18, 2010
I find it kind of disconcerting a University would RATHER put forth a 'treatment' for prostate cancer but NOT put forth how prostate cancer is CAUSED by the stupidity of these SAME .. 'intelligent people'. They shouldn't be putting forth .. anything .. except an apology to the world .. FOR their stupidity. They are the ones' who FORCE the addition of the metal iron to all our foods. Therefore THEIR 'contribution' TO cancer research should be one of apologizing. Imho.
"Higher iron intake may be associated with risk of clinically aggressive prostate cancer"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.