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Treating Mesothelioma with Photodynamic Therapy

Mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, is often treated with the same methods as most other cancers – radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. While these medical techniques are effective, they do not constitute a true cure. As a result, scientists and doctors are looking toward new, innovative ways to treat mesothelioma. One of these methods is photodynamic therapy, abbreviated as PDT.

PDT in Short

Photodynamic therapy operates in two stages. First, a special photosensitizing agent, such as porfimer sodium, is injected into the patient’s system. The key to PDT is that cancer cells retain the photosensitizing agent much longer than do normal cells. Therefore, after the initial injection of the agent, a waiting period of 48 to 72 hours begins, after which time the agent is mostly concentrated in the cancerous cells.

In the second stage, the tumor is exposed to a certain wavelength of light, which causes the photosensitizing agent to produce a form of active oxygen that kills off the surrounding cells. Because, at least in theory, the agent is only present in cancerous cells, only these cells are affected by the treatment.

PDT also appears to carry a few hidden benefits. First, it appears to stimulate the body’s immune system into attacking the cancer, and second, the photosensitizing agent restricts the tumor’s blood vessel, thus impeding its growth.

The Downside of PDT

Unfortunately, PDT is not a perfect treatment. Although PDT is targeted, some damage (scarring, swelling, burns) to the surrounding tissue cannot be entirely avoided. Furthermore, the photosensitizing agent has residual effects for up to 6 weeks following treatment, causing the patient’s eyes and skin to be sensitive to light during this period.

Also, PDT is not suitable for treating all types of cancer. Because electromagnetic light waves can only penetrate shallowly into tissue, PDT is best used to treat cancers just under the skin or the lining of internal organs (such as mesothelioma, which attacks the lining of the lungs, chest, and abdominal cavities).

As with any new treatment, more work and research is needed to optimize the capabilities and reduce the side effects of PDT. Only time will tell if this therapy will become a truly effective tool against mesothelioma.

If you have developed mesothelioma as the result of asbestos exposure, you may have a case against those responsible. For more information, call 800-781-3955 and set up a free consultation with a mesothelioma lawyer from Williams Hart today.

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