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Institute for Commercialization

Luciferase Transfected Stem Cells as Light Source for In-Situ Photodynamic Therapy of Cancer

Reference Number: K 10-21

Inventors: Bossmann; Troyer; Basel; Shrestha; Wang

Owner: Kansas State University Research Foundation


Invention Summary

Existing cancer treatments lack overall effectiveness due in large part to the complexity of the human biological system. Various techniques such as chemo and radiation therapy, gene therapy, photodynamic therapy, targeted drug delivery systems and many others have shown promise in treating different types of cancer; however, their applications and usefulness are limited by potential side-effects and ineffective drug delivery and cancer-cell targeting, especially to cancer stem cells.

Researchers at Kansas State University have developed a non-conventional combination of various known cancer treatment techniques including: Stem-Cell Delivery; Bioluminescence; Photodynamic Therapy (PDT); and a Diagnostic Cleavage Sequence, which is proving to be quite promising. This technique allows for photodynamic therapy of tumors or other malignant cells by expressing bioluminescence enzymes (luciferases) in stem-cells known to target numerous cancers.  The light emitted from these luciferases activates the toxicity of various photosensitizers, which are very effective in the photodynamic treatment of cancer. Due to the low penetration depth of the visible light emitted by the luciferases, the photodynamic treatment can be limited to the size of the cancer/metastases. Therefore, this technology enables targeting of the cancer sites, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.


  • Allows for targeted PDT within the body in places previously unreachable
  • Cancer cell killing agents are harmless in the dark but toxic once activated by luciferases
  • Selectivity and targeting of stem-cells will leave non-cancer tissue unaffected
  • Fewer risks/ side-effects than current analogues or chemo-therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy is very cost-competitive with existing cancer treatments


  • Treatment of cancerous tumors or other concentrated malignant cells (e.g. tuberculosis)
  • Targeted treatment of other diseases or conditions that involve signature proteins or cells that can be “painted” and attacked via PDT