Mesothelioma Photodynamic Therapy is an experimental treatment form of phototherapy using light and photosensitising chemicals. Several factors make mesothelioma difficult to treat with traditional methods such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Currently, the best-established regimen combines these treatments whenever possible. Yet many mesothelioma patients find the side effects of such aggressive treatment too debilitating and opt only to manage their pain. Because of this, several experimental treatments are being developed and tested for this deadly form of cancer. One of these is photodynamic therapy.
What is Mesothelioma Photodynamic Therapy?
Mesothelioma Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a cancer treatment that uses a combination of drugs, oxygen, and light to kill cancer cells. The underlying theory to PDT is that cancer cells treated with photosynthesizing drugs die when the drugs are turned on by a specific type of light. Photosensitizing agents, the type of drugs used in PDT, are activated only when exposed to light with a specific wavelength.
Mesothelioma Photodynamic Therapy begins when patients are injected with one of several types of photosynthesizing drugs. The drugs accumulate in the cancerous cells over several days while healthy cells expel the agents. At this point, the cells are exposed to a laser light, which is administered by a fiber optic device. The light activates the photosynthesizing drug, causing a reaction with a form of oxygen in the body. This reaction kills the cancer cells.
One element crucial to the success of PDT is the drug-to-light interval. This is the amount of time between the intravenous injection of the drug and exposure via laser light. This window will vary from drug to drug. Depending on the type of drug used, it is either not absorbed by healthy tissue or pushed from healthy cells faster than cancer cells. This makes it very important that the light treatment takes place at the most optimal time period – when most healthy cells have expelled the drug.
Mesothelioma photodynamic therapy has several advantages over other therapies, including that it:
- appears to have no long-term side effects.
- may be repeated many times if needed.
- can target a tumor precisely.
- is less invasive than surgery.
- has little or no associated pain.
What to Consider When Undergoing Mesothelioma Photodynamic Therapy
Although photosynthesizing drugs can travel throughout the body, the treatment is effective only in the areas of the body that are exposed to light. Plus, treatment can leave patients photosensitive. As a result, patients should avoid sunlight and other bright light for at least 30 days after treatment, although photosensitivity may last for up to three months. During this time, patient should wear long-sleeved shirts, sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, long pants, socks, and shoes.
Other side effects include redness and swelling of the skin. Patients may also experience shortness of breath, fever, and a vulnerability to pneumonia or bronchitis. Overall, however, photodynamic therapy appears to have fewer side effects than chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Please note that photodynamic therapy is not a cure for mesothelioma, and it is still in the clinical trial stage. Consequently, its effectiveness has not been determined. Yet as trials continue and better photosynthesizing drugs are developed, the therapy may offer hope to those people who are diagnosed with this devastating cancer.