Free Mesothelioma Information Packet

Mesothelioma Photodynamic Therapy

As cancer research broadens and scientists continue to think outside the box, patients can take advantage of a wider variety of treatments for their disease instead of just the traditional therapies like radiation and chemo. Photodynamic therapy is one of those treatments that shows much promise in treating particular kinds of cancer and is sometimes recommended for those who have mesothelioma.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) needs two things to work: a photosensitizing agent and a light. When the photosensitizing agent is exposed to a certain kind and wavelength of light, it produces a kind of oxygen that kills nearby cancer cells. Different photosensitizers and different wavelengths are used, depending on the part of the body being treated and the type of cancer being addressed.

Photodynamic therapy can also aid mesothelioma patients in that it can shrink or destroy tumors by damaging the blood vessels that feed the tumor, thereby depriving it of nutrients necessary for growth. It is also believed that PDT may help activate the immune system.

What to Expect

Photodynamic therapy is administered in two steps. First, the photosensitizing agent is injected into the bloodstream of the cancer patient. It is absorbed by all the body’s cells but remains in cancer cells for a longer period of time. In about 2 to 3 days, the patient returns to the outpatient facility and the tumor is exposed to a laser light using a thin fiber optic glass strand. The light is applied for 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the tumor. Any dead tissue is later removed through an endoscopic procedure, usually about 5 days later.

Treatment with photodynamic therapy is painless and side effects are minimal. Swelling may occur in the area to which the light was applied and photosensitize reactions may occur, including severe sensitivity to light. Patients should avoid bright light and direct sunlight and should limit their time outdoors for the first 30 days after the treatment is administered.

Does it Work?

Currently, PDT is being used to treat esophageal, non-small cell lung cancers, mesothelioma, and some skin cancers and some success is apparent.

Trials are underway to determine Photodynamic Therapy’s success in treating other cancers and newer photosensitizing agents are being developed in hopes of reaching tumors deeper under the skin. Scientists are also working on PDT drugs that can better target specific cancer cells.

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Last modified: December 24, 2010.