Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment process where light is combined with drugs, called photosensitizing agents to kill cancer causing cells. The drugs begin to work only if they are activated by few types of light like laser light. Photo dynamic therapy is also referred to as photo radiation therapy, phototherapy, or photo chemotherapy. This concept of therapy has been prevalent for over 100 years. This therapy is a non-invasive treatment and is helpful in destroying cancer cells. Typically comprehensive treatment packages for pdt can cost upwards of $2,000.
The photosensitizing agent (such as porphyrins) are either injected into the bloodstream or put on the skin based on the part of the body that is being treated. The cancer cells tend to absorb the drug over a period of time. After this process, laser light is applied on the area that needs to be treated. The light facilitates the drug to react with oxygen, which in turn produces a chemical that kills the cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy may also destroy the blood vessels that feed the cancer cells while alerting the immune system to fight the cancer.
The time frame from when the drug is given to when the light is applied is termed as the drug-to-light interval. This interval can range from a couple of hours to a couple of days based on the drug used. Studies indicate that this therapy can be as effective as surgery or radiation therapy in treating certain kinds of cancers and pre-cancers. PDT is generally performed as an outpatient procedure. This therapy can be repeated and can also be combined with surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
Photodynamic Therapy Procedure
- A photosensitizing agent is injected into the bloodstream.
- The agent is absorbed by cells all over the body. The agent remains for a longer period in the cancer cells when compared to normal cells.
- Major part of the agent leaves the normal cells within 24 to 72 hours after administering the injection, but it remains intact in the cancer cells.
- The tumor is exposed to light. The photosensitizer in the tumor cells absorb the light and generate an active form of oxygen that destroys the cancer cells.
- The photosensitizer also damages the blood vessels in the tumor, thus stopping the cancer from receiving essential nutrients. Apart from this, PDT also helps in activating the immune system which in turn attacks the tumor cells.
- Light for the therapy is guided through fiber optic cables or LEDs (Light Emitting Diode).
Benefits of Photodynamic Therapy
- Less invasive when compared to surgery
- Treatment can be targeted to specific areas that require treatment
- No long-term side effects if used properly
- This therapy unlike regular radiation can be repeated any number of times based on the requirement.
- Little or no scarring after the site heals
Limitations of Photodynamic Therapy
- This therapy can treat parts of the body where light can reach. Even though the drug introduced will travel anywhere in the body, the light might not reach all parts of the body.
- The drug introduced can get sensitive towards light; hence people injected with this drug should avoid sunlight and bright light for a period of 6 weeks from when the drug was injected.
- People allergic to porphyrins cannot be treated using this therapy
Photodynamic Therapy Acne
Acclaimed as the wonder therapy for acne, photo dynamic therapy for acne is gaining popularity. Results vary from person to person depending on the severity of acne. This therapy controls further acne breakout and also improves the skin texture. It also softens and reduces acne scars. The treatment works on the overactive sebaceous gland and not just on the bacteria that infects the follicle. Photodynamic therapy for acne is very effective in treating severe cases of cystic acne.
Levulan topical photosensitizing solution is applied on affected areas and exposed to intense pulsed light. This solution is made from aminolevulinic acid or ALA. This is a naturally occurring substance within the body. PDT has been successful on rosacea, wrinkles and discolorations. Reduced inflammation and redness was noticed as also collagen stimulation.
- Microdermabrasion is performed to remove dead skin from the skins surface. This ensures better penetration of the agent applied on the skin.
- A photosensitizing agent is applied to the surface of the affected skin.
- This permits the skin to easily receive light.
- After about 15-60 minutes, the agent is removed from the skin surface.
- Light treatment is administered. The light source is either blue light, red light or intense pulsed light
- The number of sittings and the frequency of the treatment are based on the severity of the acne and vary from person to person.
- This therapy can be combined with other acne treatment options.
Benefits of photodynamic therapy for acne
- Effective when compared to other treatments offered for acne cure
- Can be combined with any ongoing treatment for acne
- No side effects
- Makes the skin smooth and soft
- No scars after treatment
Limitations of Photodynamic Therapy for Acne
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- Redness of skin
- Crusting or peeling of skin similar to sunburn, though not severe and can be set right immediately.
- Expensive when compared to other traditional acne treatments
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