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RU professor’s cancer research continues with new publication, international presentation

02/23/2017 3:57 pm

Skwor_TroyA Rockford University professor has partnered with a faculty member and student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford to publish a review article on cutting-edge research involving alternative cancer treatments.

Collaborating with U of I College of Medicine at Rockford professor Dr. Gnanasekar Munirathinam and graduate student Taher Gheewala, Rockford University Associate Professor of Biology Troy Skwor, Ph.D., published “Photosensitizers in prostate cancer therapy” in the Feb. 18 edition of Oncotarget, a free-access, peer-reviewed cancer journal.

Current treatments for prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men, are effective but invasive, while focal therapies like the use of photosensitizers can be organ-sparing for patients. The article reviews several options currently undergoing clinical trials, touting photodynamic therapy as a promising up-and-coming alternative to traditional medicine—both as a primary treatment during the early stages of cancer and a supplemental treatment following radiation.

 “We all know someone who has or is suffering through cancer and how toxic chemotherapy can be on their health. The amount of side effects alone makes the battle that much more difficult,” Prof. Skwor said. “The use of photodynamic therapy helps to target only the cancer cells with minimal side effects, which reflects a better quality of life.”

The article builds upon Skwor’s ongoing research at RU on the use of photodynamic therapy to kill both antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other types of cancer, including eye, skin and prostate cells. A novel chemical that gets excited in the presence of light, also known as a photosensitizer, is used to produce reactive oxygen species or byproducts that result in killing bacteria and cancer cells.

Skwor shared some of his work in a Feb. 6 seminar at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Pathology Grand Rounds, and presented with his colleagues last year at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual conference. Last fall, he published earlier findings with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Matthew Bork, Ph.D., and several former and current RU students in the “Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, B: Biology.”

Up next, Skwor has been asked to present in June at the International Photodynamic Association World Congress in Coimbra, Portugal. He is hopeful he will be joined by Prof. Bork, Rockford University alumnus Brandon Leviskas ’15 and undergraduate student Hailey Avery.

“It has been an amazing experience mentoring Brandon and Hailey and watching them develop as researchers,” Prof. Skwor said. “They both have presented our findings at conferences, and professors as well as students have commended them on their breadth of knowledge, hands-on experience and passion with the project. We are trying our best to have the whole research team present this summer in Portugal.”