UTA Physicists: Microwaves Kill Solid Tumor Cells

Microwaves activate photosensitive nanoparticles that can cause tissue-heating effects leading lead to cell death in solid tumors.

Caris Life Sciences

Microwaves may hold a key to treating solid tumors, according to research being done by physicists at the University of Texas at Arlington.


Wei Chen [Photo Courtesy UT Arlington]

Their research has shown that using microwaves to activate photosensitive nanoparticles can cause tissue-heating effects that can lead to cell death in solid tumors, according to a news release from UT Arlington.

The research was publish this month in The Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology. Wei Chen, professor of physics was lead author of the article title, “A new modality of cancer treatment-nanoparticle mediated microwave induced photodynamic therapy.”

“Our new method using microwaves can propagate through all types of tissues and target deeply situated tumors,” Chen said in the release.

How does it work?

According to UTA, photodynamic therapy kills cancer cells when a nanoparticle is introduced into the tumor’s tissue and generates a toxic “singlet oxygen” after it is exposed to light.

Singlet oxygen is a highly reactive type of oxygen that permanently damages cell mitochondria and eventually causes the cell to die.

Joined Chen in the research are Lun Ma, a UTA research assistant professor in physics, as well as Mengyu Yao, Lihua Li and Yu Zhang from the Guangdong Key Laboratory of Orthopaedic Technology and Implant Materials in Guangzhou, China, and Junying Zhang from the Physics Department at Beihang University in Beijing, China.

UTA said that the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, the National Science Foundation and Department of Homeland Security’s joint Academic Research Initiative program, the National Basic Research Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the five-year plan of the Chinese Military, supported the research.


This diagram shows how microwaves can lead to the death of cells in solid tumors. [Courtesy UT Arlington]

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