Austin company may help cure common cancer side effect

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

Thumbnail for 9230Bt: Terri Gruca, KVUE


As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, KVUE wants to bring you stories that put faces to all the pink that you see.

More than that, we want to share some of the amazing scientific breakthroughs happening in our own backyard including a new treatment that could help breast cancer survivors deal with one of the most debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.

Tell cancer patients that lights could revolutionize their care, and they might be skeptical. Leslie Crook said she is living proof.

“The day I went in for hernia repair, I found out it wasn’t a hernia, it was lymphoma,” she said.

Surgery was followed by months of grueling chemotherapy. Crook said the treatment was made even more challenging by chemo induced peripheral neuropathy.

“Both my hands and my feet, I had no feeling, and it was creeping up my leg,” she said.

One in five people suffer from some type of neuropathy, and it is one of the most common side effects for people undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Neuropathy affects the nerves in your fingers and your feet. In some women, it becomes so severe they have difficulty just picking up a fork.

“The side effects became so severe, I actually told my doctor I couldn’t continue the chemotherapy,” said Crook.

That’s where Austin-based Photetica came in. The company has developed a photo-therapy machine that delivers low level laser light directly to the patient. They simply place their hands and feet on the plates for 45 minutes a day. The machine is currently in clinical trials with breast cancer patients.

“Nothing exists for these problems,” said Brad Richdale, Photetica’s CEO. “Our goal is to reduce the effects of chemotherapy drugs. That’s our first and foremost goal.”

Crooks said the machine cured her neuropathy, helped her sleep and raised her white blood cell count.

“It was life-changing, well, life-saving, really, because I was able to continue on my treatment, and that did save my life,” said Crooks.

Her hope now is that other cancer patients will soon get to take advantage of the light.

“I know for a fact it can make a difference. It’ll make a difference in people being able to finish their treatments. It’ll make a difference in their quality of life. It’ll make a difference in whether they want to live or die,” said Crook.

The clinical trials are showing early success. If all goes well with the clinical trials, the Photetica light therapy machine could be available to the general public next year.

Researchers believe this machine could be used not just to help cancer patients, but diabetics, HIV patients and even people with migraines, offering them relief of side effect symptoms without prescribing a pill.