Enlightened Prostate & Pancreatic Cancer Possiblities

Prostate and pancreatic cancer respond to photodynamic therapy

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(RxWiki News) Laser light has a number of medical applications. In the oncology world, it's mainly used in combination with drugs to treat skin cancer. The horizon is opening up, though, for this technology.

Photodynamic therapy, which combines laser light and drug therapies, hasn't been used for internal cancers because there's been no way to control the precise amount of light.

That's changing, though, with the development of specialized software.

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Atomic physics researchers at Lund University in Sweden have created computer software that uses optical fibers that provides feedback about the tumor being treated.

Johannes Swartling, doctor of atomic physics at Lund University and Chief Technical Officer at SpectraCure, the company that is now developing the software, says, "I think we are about to see a real breakthrough, both for us and for other research groups around the world who conduct research on cancer treatment using laser light."

The unique feature about this technology is its ability to continually calibrate the most effective light dose. It can be used with other light therapies, according to Swartling.

Recent tests involving prostate cancer patients in Sweden showed the method works for internal malignancies. A clinical trial will begin in the United States to test the technology on recurrent prostate cancer.

The technology is currently being tested in the United Kingdom on pancreatic cancer. These tests are focusing on dosage adjustment, safety and effectiveness.

Swartling says early results suggest the method could minimize the serious side effects associated with prostate cancer, which can include impotence and incontinence.

Here's how photodynamic therapy works. The patient is given a drug which is activated when exposed to light. The drug spreads throughout the body and into the tumor. 

After the patient receives an anesthetic, a needle that has optical fibers attached is inserted into the tumor. The fibers direct light into the tumor that activates the drug to kill the cells in the target area.

dailyRx asked John Farrell, M.D., director of the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center Endoscopic Ultrasound Division of Digestive Diseases, for his thoughts about this technology.

"The development of new refinement in the delivery of photodynamic therapy or other ablative treatments to add to the armamentarium to manage pancreatic cancer holds promise. If this can be delivered using minimally invasive techniques such as endoscopic ultrasound, it would have potential role in the management of pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatic endocrine tumors," said Dr. Farrell, who did not participate in this research.

He concluded, "However this treatment would likely have to be used in combination with systemic treatment in the management of pancreatic cancer, a systemic disease."

If the tests go well, SpectraCure hopes the method will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada within a few years.

Last Updated:
February 20, 2012