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Home > Experimental treatment > Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

Traditionally, many cancer treatments have been unable to inhibit the metastasis (growth and spread) of mesothelioma, also known as asbestos cancer, requiring further research and development of new modalities through which to combat the disease. There is now an investigational, new treatment currently undergoing clinical trial testing called photodynamic therapy. The process, though still quite experimental, is underway to becoming a defense for the body against mesothelioma cancer.

Photodynamic therapy must be initiated before surgery to be operative. The treatment utilizes the energy emitted from laser light to kill cancer cells from within the body. As aforementioned, since the treatment is in the experimental stages, its ability to assist with the body's metastasis, though effective, is still highly investigational.

This proactive therapy is especially vital to the treatment of this type of cancer (formed after asbestos exposure) because mesothelioma has proven to be incurable thus far. Once proven effective, photodynamic therapy could be utilized in the treatment of other cancer types as well.

The restorative process of photodynamic therapy uses oxygen as produced by a reaction to light waves. Photodynamic therapy releases photosensitizers into the bloodstream intravenously. In the bloodstream, the drug is then absorbed throughout all cells of the body. The patient is then exposed to specific wavelengths of light during the therapeutic process. Photosensitizers in the bloodstream react to the light exposure by producing a particular oxygen strand that kills neighboring cancer-ridden cells.

Once injected, photosensitizers do not differentiate healthy from cancerous cells. The difference relies in the amount of time the active agent is spent in each cell. Cancerous cells absorb photosensitizers much longer than healthy cells. The active agent is absorbed in all cells of the body; from anywhere between one to three days, the tumors are exposed to measured wavelengths of light. Subjects must receive the injections of the photosensitizing agents two-three days before surgery. Light waves are then absorbed from a laser light the surgeon shines on the pleura (or another localized effected area). The remaining photosensitizers absorb the wavelengths of light and initiate the defensive oxygen enhancement intended to kill cancerous cells. Adverse effects to the treatment are limited and infrequent.

Photodynamic therapy can offer further proactive measures to treat cancer with two alternative activities in the body. The photosensitizer could 1) damage the tumor, thereby cutting off the nutrition supply for the tumor's need to grow and thrive, and 2) alert the body to naturally attack cancer cells organically.

As a precept to surgery, treatment of mesothelioma with photodynamic therapy is optimistic, but still investigational. Tests were conducted in the early stages of the disease. Although this proactive approach has been shown to be a safe treatment for other types of cancer, concerns arose when clinical trials of mesothelioma in phase 1 and phase 2 sometimes experienced caveats and complications. Therefore, doctors have yet to widely accept this treatment. It should also be said that this treatment is not yet available in the United Kingdom.

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