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Campus News / News

Rockford University Professor Publishes More Research on Alternative Cancer Treatments

12/21/2017 1:13 pm

Rockford, IL (12/21/2017) — A Rockford University professor has published more research on the use of light therapy as a less toxic alternative to more traditional and often invasive treatments for prostate cancer.

Doctor Troy Skwor in Classroom 2017Associate Professor of Biology Troy Skwor, Ph.D., co-authored “Photodynamic therapy using pheophorbide and 670 nm LEDs exhibits anti-cancer effects in-vitro in androgen dependent prostate cancer” in the November issue of the international journal Photodiagnosis and Photodynamic Therapy. The article is a continuation of Dr. Skwor’s collaboration with researchers from the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford, including Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences Gnanasekar Munirathinam, Ph.D., and then-graduate student Taher Gheewala, M.S. Gheewala is now a research specialist in the Department of Surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The group previously published a review article on photodynamic treatments for prostate cancer in the peer-reviewed medical journal Oncotarget in May.

“I was lucky to find an expert in prostate cancer biology here in Rockford, Dr. Munirathinam, who was devoted to understanding the methods associated with cancer development as well as finding more natural methods of fighting it,” Dr. Skwor said. “When I mentioned photodynamic therapy to him, he gladly welcomed the collaboration, and the project took off and continues to develop. The proximity of University of Illinois College of Medicine to Rockford University has resulted in multiple collaborations as well as numerous internships for RU students with their faculty.”

Dr. Munirathinam agrees that the connection between the two Rockford educational institutions is beneficial and also credits a local sponsor, Brovember Inc., for the research funding: “The Rockford-based group Brovember Inc. hosts a number of events throughout the year, and the proceeds go to fund prostate cancer research such as this.”

Doctor Troy Skwor in research lab 2017Dr. Skwor focuses much of his research on photodynamic therapy, which involves the use of chemicals known as photosensitizers that become active in the presence of light to create reactive oxygen molecules capable of killing several types of cancer cells and antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. He has studied the treatment’s effectiveness against numerous bacteria-including MRSA and E. coli-as well as melanoma and prostate cancer.

In their most recent article, Dr. Skwor and his University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford colleagues evaluate the effects of using the natural compound known as “pheophorbide” -a breakdown product of chlorophyll-to kill prostate cancer cells in the presence of a type of red light. Their findings continue to point toward photodynamic therapy as an effective treatment for cancer, capable of killing affected cells and inhibiting further migration of the disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the third leading cause of death and second most common cancer diagnosis for American men, with one in seven diagnosed with it in their lifetime. While surgery, hormone therapy and radiation remain the primary treatments, Dr. Skwor and his collaborators have focused on studies elaborating on the effects of alternative and more targeted methods like photodynamic therapy. The treatment, which is clinically approved, is minimally invasive with fewer side effects, and can be organ-sparing for patients.

“Prostate cancer will basically affect most men if they live long enough,” Dr. Skwor explained. “Photodynamic therapy serves two benefits for prostate cancer: a less invasive and perhaps more reliable method of detection compared to tests of prostate specific antigen levels, and a method to kill cancer cells.”

Dr. Skwor has given research seminars on photodynamic therapy at the Rockford and Chicago campuses of the University of Illinois College of Medicine in the past year, and presented his findings at this summer’s International Photodynamic Association World Congress in Portugal with RU Assistant Professor of Chemistry Matthew Bork, Ph.D., student Hailey Avery and alumnus Brandon Leviskas. He previously published a research article on using photodynamic therapy to kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli with Bork and several current and former RU students in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, B: Biology.

For an interview request or more information, please contact Rockford University Advancement Communications Specialist Jeniece Smith at 815-394-5041 or

Rockford University is a four-year, co-educational institution founded in 1847 offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in traditional liberal arts and professional fields. The University offers approximately 80 majors, minors and concentrations, including the adult accelerated degree completion program for a B.S. in Management Studies. Through its Graduate Studies department, degrees are extended to include the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and Master of Urban Education.

Rockford University is home to one of only 11 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) chapters in Illinois, the most prestigious honor society in the United States. RU is ranked as a Best Regional University – Midwest Tier One by US News & World Report and was named by the Princeton Review as a Best in the Midwest institution. The University currently serves approximately 1,300 full-and part-time students.