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Photodynamic Therapy for Mesothelioma

Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Researchers and scientists continue to explore treatment options for malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that arises out of the mesothelial cells which line the body’s organs, such as the lung, abdomen and heart. While considered a rare type of cancer, between 2500 and 3000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States annually, the vast majority resulting from prior exposure to asbestos.

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy is a non-traditional treatment that is viewed as showing promise in treating particular cancers which include mesothelioma, esophageal cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and some skin cancers. Photodynamic therapy is conducted in two parts. First, is the intravenous injection of a photosensitizing drug into the bloodstream of the patient.  Approximately 2 to 3 days later, the patient is exposed to a laser light for up to an hour or so, depending on the size of the tumor. This procedure is typically administered in an outpatient facility. 

The way the treatment works is that the cancer cells absorb the photosensitizing drug quicker than healthy cells and the drug remains in the cancer cells longer. When the patient is treated with light of a specified wavelength, the cancer cells absorb and react to the light in a way that causes them to produce a form of highly reactive oxygen that damages and kills the cells. The photodynamic therapy also damages blood vessels inside the tumor, cutting off nutrition for the cancer cells.

Side Effects

Side effects from the treatment include burns, scarring, eye and skin light and sun sensitivity, swelling in nearby healthy tissue, coughing, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, and painful breathing or stomach pain, depending on the location of the treatment. 

Photodynamic therapy is typically used in conjunction with other types of treatment, such as chemotherapy and surgery. Photodynamic therapy is not viable for mesothelioma patients with an advanced case of mesothelioma that has spread throughout the body.