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Home > Non-traditional mesothelioma treatment > Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy along with immunotherapy and gene therapy is a type of non-traditional, or experimental mesothelioma therapy.

In PDT, a drug called a photosensitising agent is injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by the body's cells. The drug makes cells sensitive to light. When the area to be treated is exposed to laser light, the cells are killed.

PDT has to be combined with an operation to treat mesothelioma. This has been tried for early stage mesothelioma. The photosensitising drug is injected into your bloodstream a few days before surgery. During surgery, the surgeon then shines the laser light directly onto the pleura.

PDT has been shown to be a safe type of treatment with other types of cancer. But in phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials for mesothelioma, there were some major complications on a few occasions and so doctors have not widely accepted this treatment.

It is particularly likely to be risky when used with major surgery and this combination of treatments is not available in the UK. There are no claims that this treatment will cure anyone of mesothelioma. It is very experimental. We have included it here because it is something you may have read or heard about.

Photodynamic therapy has been used on an experimental basis during surgery to help prevent the recurrence of mesothelioma cancer in the lining of the lungs or pleura. In one clinical trial of 26 patients, photodynamic therapy was combined with either of two types of surgery—a pleurectomy or an extrapleural pneumonectomy. A pleurectomy is the removal of lining of the lung or pleura. The more extensive extrapleural pneumonectomy involves removal of both the lung and pleura. The photosensitizer was Foscan (meta–tetrahydroxyphenylchlorin, mTHPC).

The clinical trial sought to establish a safe dose of Foscan and determine side effects. These included skin wounds as well as sensitivity to light some time after treatment. More studies must be done before concluding that Foscan and photodynamic therapy would be a useful and safe mesothelioma treatment.

The researchers pointed out that the use of photodynamic therapy might allow some patients to undergo a lung–sparing pleurectomy rather than the more invasive extrapleural pneumonectomy. Currently, other studies are exploring the interaction of surgery and photodynamic therapy using the photosensitizer porfimer sodium, a drug commonly used in photodynamic treatment of non–small cell lung cancer that affects the bronchi.

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