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Low temperature plasmas as emerging cancer therapeutics: the state of play and thoughts for the future

Hirst, Adam M.; Frame, Fiona M.; Arya, Manit; Maitland, Norman J.; O’Connell, Deborah


Adam M. Hirst

Manit Arya

Norman J. Maitland

Deborah O’Connell



The field of plasma medicine has seen substantial advances over the last decade, with applications developed for bacterial sterilisation, wound healing and cancer treatment. Low temperature plasmas (LTPs) are particularly suited for medical purposes since they are operated in the laboratory at atmospheric pressure and room temperature, providing a rich source of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS). A great deal of research has been conducted into the role of reactive species in both the growth and treatment of cancer, where long-established radio- and chemo-therapies exploit their ability to induce potent cytopathic effects. In addition to producing a plethora of RONS, LTPs can also create strong electroporative fields. From an application perspective, it has been shown that LTPs can be applied precisely to a small target area. On this basis, LTPs have been proposed as a promising future strategy to accurately and effectively control and eradicate tumours. This review aims to evaluate the current state of the literature in the field of plasma oncology and highlight the potential for the use of LTPs in combination therapy. We also present novel data on the effect of LTPs on cancer stem cells, and speculatively outline how LTPs could circumvent treatment resistance encountered with existing therapeutics.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2016-06
Journal Tumor Biology
Print ISSN 1010-4283
Electronic ISSN 1423-0380
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 6
Pages 7021-7031
Institution Citation Hirst, A. M., Frame, F. M., Arya, M., Maitland, N. J., & O’Connell, D. (2016). Low temperature plasmas as emerging cancer therapeutics: the state of play and thoughts for the future. Tumor Biology, 37(6), 7021-7031.
Keywords General Medicine
Publisher URL


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© The Author(s) 2016
Open Access
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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