Penn Medicine was the first health system in the Philadelphia area to begin researching the use of Photodynamic Therapy to treat mesothelioma patients. Also known as photoradiation therapy, phototherapy or photochemotherapy, photodynamic therapy is based on a discovery that revealed that when light is exposed to certain chemicals at a particular frequency, it can kill single cell organisms. When used as a mesothelioma treatment, light-sensitive medications in combination with low-level beams of light destroy cancerous cells.
Photodynamic Therapy in Combination with Surgery
Because pleural mesothelioma occurs in several places in the lining of the lung simultaneously, surgery can be an ineffective treatment when used in isolation. However, when photodynamic therapy is used during surgery, it actually increases its effectiveness.
How Does Photodynamic Therapy Work?
Photodynamic therapy is a multistep treatment process.
First, the photosensitizer medication is injected into the bloodstream of a patient. The drug typically takes a few days to be absorbed by the body. The drug gets absorbed by cells throughout the body, but stays in cancer cells longer than normal cells.
Then, when ready, the physician directs a laser light source at the cancer cells. The light causes the drug to react with oxygen to form a chemical that kills the cancer cells. The amount of time that the laser is applied will vary from patient to patient.
Photodynamic therapy can also work by destroying the blood vessels that feed the tumor.
Photodynamic therapy is only affective in areas that the light can actually reach. It works as a treatment for mesothelioma because mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the lining of the lung. During the surgery, the light is applied to the pleural space, or area surrounding the lungs.
Led by Associate Professor of Surgery, Joseph Friedberg, MD, Penn Medicine's researchers continue to learn ways to improve photodynamic therapy's effectiveness in fighting cancer. New cancer treatments may involve combining photodynamic therapy with gene therapy or with tumor vaccines to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer.
Need More Information on Mesothelioma Photodynamic Therapy?
Contact the Penn Mesothelioma program today. A Nurse/Patient Navigator can help you understand when photodynamic therapy is appropriate for mesothelioma, as well as all the other available treatment options.
Contact a mesothelioma Nurse/Patient Navigator at Penn today. Call 215-662-9697