From latte foam to cancer treatments: Univ. of Iowa researchers find potential in new study

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 3:46 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Scientists at the University of Iowa are using culinary arts techniques to fight cancer. The inspiration from this research came from common foods like whipped cream, pop rocks or the foam on top of a latte.

Dr. James Byrne and a team of researchers are working with something called molecular gastronomy. It’s using concepts in cooking to inject oxygen into cancerous tumors and shows promise in treating prostate cancer in mice.

Dr. Byrne said tumors generally have very low oxygen levels. Those low oxygen levels actually reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

So this research is finding ways to be able to add more oxygen into tumors. All they need is something that creates a foam, and then something that thickens that foam and pumps the oxygen into the whipping siphon.

That then creates the material they can inject into tumors, helping enhance radiation or chemotherapy.

Dr. Byrne said while they’re still in the small animal stage now, he’s excited at the potential the research holds for the future.

”It’s looking extremely promising. We’ve shown a significant reduction in tumor growth in these small animals, as well as prolonging their survival and with radiation as well as in combination, again with certain chemotherapies, and these are in actually really hard-to-treat cancers. So there is some really really challenging, difficult-to-treat tumors that we’ve been able to do these in,” said Dr. Byrne.

Dr. Byrne said while they don’t have an exact timeline to when they can start helping patients, once it reaches that starts, he sees it helping in patients with really difficult-to-treat tumors. Situations where a surgeon may want to remove a tumor, but can’t or can’t get all of it.

“Knowing and seeing those promising results really motivates us to try and push it even further, knowing that this could one day help patients,” he said.

He said he’s motivated by the people he treats on a daily basis, and again while it’s still a ways away from execution in patients he said he hopes the promising potential in the research can provide hope for the future.

All inspired by the coffee or hot chocolate many drink every day.