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Photodynamic therapy for cancer

Abstract

The therapeutic properties of light have been known for thousands of years, but it was only in the last century that photodynamic therapy (PDT) was developed. At present, PDT is being tested in the clinic for use in oncology — to treat cancers of the head and neck, brain, lung, pancreas, intraperitoneal cavity, breast, prostate and skin. How does PDT work, and how can it be used to treat cancer and other diseases?

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Figure 1: Mechanism of action of photodynamic therapy (PDT).
Figure 2: Type I and type II reaction in photodynamic therapy (PDT).
Figure 3: Localization of a photosensitizer to vascular endothelial cells.

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Acknowledgements

We thank R. Anderson, T. Hasan and J. S. Hill for their critical and constructive comments, and A. C. Moor for her input on various sensitizers.

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Correspondence to Dai Fukumura or Rakesh K. Jain.

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DATABASES

Cancer.gov

bladder cancer

brain tumours

breast cancer

cervical cancer

colorectal cancer

gastric carcinoma

head and neck tumours

intraocular tumours

lung cancer

mesothelioma

oesophageal cancer

pancreatic cancer

skin cancer

LocusLink

COX2

IL-1

IL-6

IL-12

TNF-α

VEGF

Glossary

DERMATITIS

Inflammation of the skin.

EOSIN

The first photosensitizer used in photodynamic therapy by von Tappeiner.

FLUENCE RATE

The radiant energy incident per second across a sectional area of irradiated spot (power per unit area of light given in watts per square meter, W/m2; 1 W = 1 J/s).

LIGHT EXPOSURE DOSE

The total energy of exposed light across a sectional area of irradiated spot (energy per unit area of exposed light, in joules per square meter, J/m2). The energy content of light is proportional to the wavelength of absorption.

PHOTODYNAMIC ACTION

The reaction of cells to a chemical reagent (or photosensitizer), light and oxygen.

PHOTOSENSITIZER

A chemical that is required for photodynamic action. A photosensitizer transfers energy from the light to generate reactive oxygen species. Photofrin is the most widely used photosensitizer so far.

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Dolmans, D., Fukumura, D. & Jain, R. Photodynamic therapy for cancer. Nat Rev Cancer 3, 380–387 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrc1071

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