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Mesothelioma Treatment: Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic Therapy or PDT is a form of mesothelioma treatment. It involves the use of a specific type of light and a drug to kill mesothelioma cancer cells. The drug is known as a photosensitizer. When light of a specific wavelength makes contact with the photosensitizer, the photosensitizer is activated and a form of oxygen is produced that kills nearby cells.

The steps of Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) in mesothelioma treatment

The first step is application of the photosensitizer. The photosensitizer maybe in the form of a liquid or a cream. After the photosensitizer has been administered, an incubation period must be observed. The incubation period can be several minutes or days. After the incubation period, the target area i.e., cancerous region is exposed to the type of light that activates the photosensitizer.

Why is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) potentially successful in the treatment of mesothelioma?

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) can be successful in treating mesothelioma because:

  • It directly kills mesothelioma cancer cells
  • It damages blood vessels in the mesothelioma tumor and prevent it from receiving nutrients
  • It can prompt the immune system to attack mesothelioma cancer cells.

    Light sources for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) in the treatment of mesothelioma

    Sources of light for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) include laser, intense pulsed light, light emitting diodes, blue light, red light and even sunlight. For cancers that exist within the body such as mesothelioma, the light is delivered to the cancerous area through fiber optic cables.

    Photosensitizer drugs used in Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for mesothelioma treatment

    Some photosensitizer drugs are Photofrin, Levulan, and Metvix. Photofrin is usually used for internal cancers such as mesothelioma while Levulan and Metvix are used for the treatment of skin cancer.

    Where is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) performed?

    Mesothelioma patients who are planning to undergo Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) should know that the procedure can be performed in an outpatient setting such as a doctor's office. Thus, hospitalization is usually not required. Anesthesia is often not used in the procedure.

    Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is typically performed by dermatologists, oncologists, internal medicine specialists, family doctors, ear nose and throat surgeons, plastic surgeons and their staff. In some cases, Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) may be performed in medical spa-type facilities where there is no supervision by a physician.

    Who is a good candidate for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)?

    The doctor is in the best position to answer this question. Some relevant factors are the patient's overall health, past treatment and comfort level. It is important for the patient to inform the doctor of other medical conditions that can affect wound healing, whether the patient has had negative effects from previous Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), whether the patient has systemic lupus erythematosus and whether the patient suffers from porphyria. Patients should also inform their doctor of any drug allergies, bleeding or bruising tendencies, pregnancy status, hepatitis status and HIV status.

    The answer to this question also depends on whether one is seeking Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for a skin problem or an internal illness such as mesothelioma cancer. For the treatment of skin problems, a good candidate for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is one with fair skin with no sun damage. People with darker skin that tends to discolor with the application of laser treatments are generally not good candidates for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT).

    Further, people who are extraordinarily sensitive to light, on medication that makes them overly sensitive to light or light-based therapies, burn easily or are unable to avoid sunlight for 48 hours after undergoing Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) are probably not good candidates for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT).

    Shortcomings of Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) in treating mesothelioma

    The light necessary to activate a therapeutic reaction from a photosensitizer cannot penetrate more than about a third of an inch of tissue. Consequently, Photodynamic Therapy is used to treat tumors that exist on or just below the skin. For the same reason, Photodynamic Therapy is not very effective in the treatment of large tumors or mesothelioma cancer that has spread significantly.

    Complications of using Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) in treating mesothelioma cancer

    Mesothelioma patients who undergo Photodynamic Therapy are at risk of experiencing some side-effects. These include burning, skin discoloration, redness on the skin, prominence of small blood vesels, cold sore, scarring, eye injury or swelling and sensitivity to sunlight.

    Alternatives to Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

    As with many medical treatments, there are alternatives to Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) and patients should be aware of them. Please be advised however, that the alternatives may not be applicable for the treatment of mesothelioma. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, you should discuss the alternatives to Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) with your doctor.

    Treatment techniques that maybe used as a substitute for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) include freezing, burning, chemical peels, lasers, creams used for chemotherapy, radiation, curettage (removal of tissue by scraping), dessication (the process of extreme drying).

    More information on Photodynamic Therapy (PDT):


    About the mesothelioma attorneys of Weitz & Luxenberg

    Weitz & Luxenberg is one of the leading personal injury law firms in the U.S. The firm has been specializing in mesothelioma cancer cases and other asbestos-related cancer cases since 1986. During this time, Weitz & Luxenberg mesothelioma lawyers have recovered millions of dollars in malignant mesothelioma cancer cases. Weitz & Luxenberg asbestos attorneys accept mesothelioma cases from all areas of the U.S. and certain regions of Canada. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a mesothelioma cancer such as pleural mesothelioma or peritoneal mesothelioma, contact a leading mesothelioma attorney by completing the form on this page.

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