Photodynamic Therapy and Mesothelioma Treatment

Photodynamic therapy is an experimental form of mesothelioma treatment that uses a drug, called a photosensitizing agent, and a special kind of light to produce a type of oxygen that kills cancer cells. Each photosensitizing agent only responds to one particular wavelength, which travels a specified distance in the body. That means that different parts of the body require treatment with different wavelengths.

During photodynamic therapy mesothelioma treatment:

  1. the drug is injected into the bloodstream so that it can be absorbed by the cells.
  2. both normal cells and cancer cells absorb the drug.
  3. the drug leaves normal cells after about 24 hours but remains in cancer cells.
  4. the tumor is exposed to the light 24 to 72 hours after the injection.

At that time, the drug has left the normal cells, but still remains in the cancerous ones. The photosensitizing drug can also cause damage to the tumor’s blood vessels, resulting in the tumor cells dying because they can’t receive the nutrients they need. The drug may also trigger a response in the immune system to attack the tumor cells.

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The Advantages of Photodynamic Therapy as a Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma cannot be successfully treated with just one therapy. That is why the standard of care is multi-modality treatment consisting of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Photodynamic therapy takes a different approach to killing malignant mesothelioma cells than the other three forms of therapy, which means it can be added to the therapies that are currently used. 

One important characteristic of photodynamic therapy is that it is an extremely targeted mesothelioma treatment modality. The photosensitizing drug used in the treatment is expelled from healthy cells after a period of time, leaving only diseased cells sensitive to the cancer-killing light.

Mesothelioma surgery isn’t always successful in removing all of the diseased cells, especially the microscopic ones. Photodynamic therapy can destroy microscopic cells, creating a better prognosis.

The Disadvantages of Photodynamic Therapy

Although photodynamic therapy improves a patient’s prognosis, it is by no means a cure for mesothelioma. The various wavelengths cannot penetrate more than a few millimeters into the tissue in the treatment area, which means that very thick tumors or tumors that are difficult to access are not good candidates for this form of mesothelioma treatment.

Florida Mesothelioma Treatment Center Explains Other Uses for Photodynamic Therapy

The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute website includes these uses of photodynamic therapy for the treatment for lung cancer, including mesothelioma:

  • Reduce the symptoms of various lung cancers when surgery isn't an option
  • Control bleeding
  • Relieve breathing problems
  • Treat very small tumors when other therapies aren't appropriate

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