If you haven’t been personally affected by cancer, chances are you know someone who has. After Dr. Hadiyah Green lost two loved ones to cancer, she set out to find a way to beat the deadly disease.
Doctor Green’s Story
Dr. Hadiyah Green was raised by her aunt and uncle in St. Louis, Missouri. After high school, she went on to study physics at Alabama AM University. There she became the first member of her family to ever graduate from college.
After Hadiyah graduated, her aunt shared a shocking medical diagnoses with the family. Not only had she had been diagnosed with cancer, she had been keeping it a secret for eight years.
Hadiyah’s aunt refused treatment, saying that she would rather die than suffer through chemotherapy or radiation. Three months later, her aunt died. Not long after, Hadiyah’s uncle was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He decided to go through with the cancer treatment, but doctors only gave him three months to live.
Hadiyah nursed her uncle and he lived for another ten years before he passed, but the chemo and radiation treatments left him disfigured. “The man that raised me wasn’t the same,” Hadiyah remembers, “He just wasn’t the same person.”
Hadiyah wondered why the cancer treatment had to affect her uncle’s whole body, when he only had cancer in one spot. From that moment forward, she dedicated her life to finding a cancer treatment that doesn’t include dangerous and debilitating side effects.
Hadiyah began reading about laser technology while working on her doctorate. She wondered if she could use lasers to target cancer cells directly. For the next three years, she worked in her lab, developing technology that uses nanoparticles to destroy cancer cells, without harming the healthy cells around them or affecting cells in other parts of the body.
At just 35 years old, Dr. Hadiyah Green was able to kill cancer in mice without damaging the rest of their bodies, making her the first person to successfully treat cancer using lasers.
Laser therapy can be used to treat the side effects of other cancer treatments, as well as the cancer itself. It aims to destroy or shrink tumors using heat, or activate a chemical known as a photosensitizing agent (PDT) that kills only cancerous cells. There are three main types of lasers for cancer treatment:
- CO2 Lasers – These lasers cut or vaporize tissue with very little damage to surrounding tissues. They are primarily used for pre-cancers and early stage cancer.
- Argon Lasers – These lasers only go a short distance into tissues. They are used to treat skin problems, eye tumors and to remove polyps from the colon before they develop into cancer.
- Nd:YAG Lasers – These lasers go the deepest into the tissue. They can cause blood to clot quickly, making them effective at getting in hard-to-reach places. They have the ability to travel through tiny optical fibers that can be bent, placed in a tumor and heated to destroy cancer.
The Ora Lee Smith Cancer Research Foundation
Dr. Green wants her new technology to be available and affordable for those who need it the most, so she is aiming to provide the treatment through a non-profit, instead of the pharmaceutical industry. She founded a research center named after her aunt and uncle that focuses on finding a cure for cancer, specifically through laser treatments. To support her organization, visit the Ora Lee Smith Cancer Research Foundation to find out how you can help.
The Hearty Soul
Ora Lee Smith Cancer Research Foundation
National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society
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