Sherri McFarland, professor of chemistry, is shedding light on the fight against cancer—literally. She and her team of researchers are developing a cancer medication that uses light to target and destroy tumor cells in a process known as photodynamic therapy (PDT).
Dr. McFarland’s photodrug, TLD-1433, is currently in a phase II clinical study for patients with recurring bladder cancer that has proven resistant to traditional therapies. The National Science Foundation awarded McFarland a $440,000 grant to investigate the photodrug’s unusual effectiveness in low-oxygen environments.
A cancer survivor herself, McFarland says her goal is to provide more treatment options for cancer patients, particularly for those whose cancer is unresponsive to traditional therapies. Pending results from the clinical study, she hopes TLD-1433, along with other photomedicines, becomes a leading treatment option for patients with aggressive and unresponsive cancers.
“A lot of people don’t know that there are alternative treatments like these light-based therapies. Even your typical oncologist may not know about PDT,” McFarland says. “When we think of cancer treatment, we think of chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery. But if you have a tricky form of cancer, there are a number of emerging alternative therapies available.”