Cancer is tough, but science is finding clever ways to treat it, one of them being called photodynamic therapy (PDT). Photodynamic therapy, or PDT, is a treatment using a special drug activated by light to kill cancer cells. The FDA approves it for different cancers, like skin cancer and lung cancer. This approach doesn't hurt healthy cells much, making it great for skin cancers.
In this blog, we will explore PDT as well as a process called photoimmunotherapy (PIT), shining a light on how they are changing the way we fight cancer.
How does Photodynamic Therapy Work?
Photodynamic therapy has two main steps. First, you get a special drug called a photosensitizer, either by mouth, on your skin, or through a vein, depending on where the tumor is. After 24 to 72 hours, most of the drug leaves normal cells but stays in cancer cells. Then, the tumor is exposed to light. (NIH, 2021)
How the light is used depends on the tumor's location. For skin tumors, the light is directed at the cancer. For tumors in the throat, airways, and lungs, a doctor uses an endoscope, a thin, lighted tube, to guide a fiber optic cable that transmits light to the treatment areas.
The Future of Photodynamic Therapy
Scientists are working hard to make PDT even more efficient. They want to use it for more cancers and improve how it works. They are also trying to make stronger drugs that work better and cause fewer side effects.
At the same time, researchers are actively exploring ways to use another infrared light technology called Photoimmunotherapy (PIT). Just like PDT, it offers advantages over traditional therapies by precisely eliminating cancer cells and boosting the immune response with minimal side effects on healthy cells. The difference between both is that PIT mixes the special drug with an immune protein. When we use light, it can create a strong antitumor immune response, killing cancer cells and making the immune system fight even more. Right now, the scientific community is studying it for head and neck cancers.
PDT and PIT can be the future of fighting cancer with the power of infrared light. As we learn more, we get closer to a time when cancer can hopefully be beaten more easily and with less trouble.
Baskara, R. et. al. 2018. Clinical development of photodynamic agents and therapeutic applications. Available Online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6158913/
Mohiuddin, T.M. et.al. 2023. Near Infrared Photoimmunotherapy: A Review of Recent Progress and Their Target Molecules for Cancer Therapy. Available Online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9916513/
National Cancer Institute. 2021. Photodynamic Therapy to Treat Cancer. Available Online: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/photodynamic-therapy#:~:text=Photodynamic%20therapy%20research-,What%20is%20photodynamic%20therapy%3F,therapy%20is%20also%20called%20PDT