Photodynamic Therapy is an innovative medical treatment of certain tumours. Photodynamic Therapy uses a combination of laser light of a specific wavelength, oxygen and a light-sensitive drug to destroy cancer cells.
The light-sensitive drug (photosensitiser) is injected into the bloodstream and is taken up by the cells throughout the body. The drug gathers preferentially in cancer cells, but is not activated until exposed to laser light of the appropriate wavelength. When a laser is shone onto the cancer, the drug is triggered to interact with oxygen and form a transitory substance, known as singlet oxygen, which then destroys the cancer cells.
There is a time interval between the injection of the photosensitiser and its activation with laser light. The laser used in Photodynamic Therapy is focused through a specialised optic fibre in order to hit only tumour cells and affect healthy tissue only marginally. All tumour cells should be exposed to the laser light during the treatment which takes only a few minutes. Therefore, Photodynamic Therapy causes only marginal damage to healthy cells. Effectiveness and precision make PDT so valuable
Following PDT, normal cells replace those cells destroyed in the course of the therapy. That allows for rapid healing and minimal scarring disfigurement that may occur with other types of tissue removal (e.g. surgery).
Even patients who have already had surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy can be treated safely with Photodynamic Therapy.
Photodynamic Therapy can be used exclusively or in combination with other treatments, i.e. with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or combined with a surgical intervention.
Some of these types of therapy (surgery, radiotherapy) can only be used once in certain areas while others (chemotherapy, Photodynamic Therapy) can be applied several times.
The physician will make a joint decision in accordance with the patient regarding the treatment, depending on the type and size of the cancer. Age and general health condition of the patient play a role as well.
Experience shows that different treatment methods are chosen for patients with the same kind of cancer. That is due to the fact the same kind of cancer can develop various forms thus requiring different treatments. Furthermore medicals have their own opinion about certain kinds of therapy.
Photodynamic Therapy will have a great future, if we are successful making it better known. Each successful treatment is an additional reason to suggest the therapy to more patients.
As with all treatments, patients may experience some side effects following PDT. After administration of the photosensitiser, patients become highly sensitive to light. Precautions must be taken to avoid exposure of skin and eyes to direct sunlight or bright indoor lighting for a specified period following injection. Appropriate clothing and eyewear must be worn and rooms must be darkened appropriately.
Other temporary side effects following Photodynamic Therapy may include pain, swelling, difficulties swallowing, and bleeding (for head and mouth cancer).