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Traditional therapies for lung cancer treatment have included staples like surge

ry, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These lung cancer treatment options have been
tried and tested in scores of patients for many years. But these types of treat
ment options may not be right for all lung cancer sufferers. Some patients canno
t tolerate the side effects of these treatments, or may not be well enough to un
dergo surgery. Luckily, new lung cancer treatments are still being developed for
targeting this devastating disease. Among the newest treatment options is photo
dynamic therapy.
This experimental new treatment differs from chemotherapy, which uses drugs to k
ill cancerous cells, and radiotherapy, which uses high-dose radiation to destroy
cancer. Instead, photodynamic therapy employs light to kill off cancer cells. F
irst, a drug is injected into the blood or put on the skin. This drug can be abs
orbed by cancer cells once it is inside the body. Next, light is employed. This
may take place within a few hours of the drug being given to the patient, or it
may take place after several days. Certain kinds of light cause a reaction from
the drug. The drug reacts with oxygen, producing a chemical that can kill nearby
cancer cells.
That which makes photodynamic therapy effective also limits it, however. If ligh
t cannot reach the drug, it cannot cause the necessary reaction that kills the c
ancer. Therefore, photodynamic therapy only works in places in the body that lig
ht can reach, such as the skin and the lining of internal organs. For lung cance
r patients, this means that photodynamic therapy could be an option for those wi
th mesothelioma, which affects the lining around the lungs. However, even in the
case of mesothelioma, if the cancer has spread to many places throughout the bo
dy, photodynamic therapy will not be effective because it will not be able to re
ach all of those sites.
However, there are many benefits to this new brand of treatment as well. It has
no long-term side effects, for example. Other therapies, particularly chemothera
py, have long-term side effects that some patients cannot or do not wish to tole
rate. And, photodynamic therapy is much less invasive than surgery used to find
and remove a cancerous tumor.
Like surgery, photodynamic therapy can precisely target cancerous cells. But unl
ike radiotherapy and other treatments, photodynamic therapy can be used many tim
es on the same part of the body if necessary. And patients will not need to be c
oncerned about much, if any, scarring from the procedure.
There are downsides however. Patients who get this type of treatment could be se
nsitive to light, both in their eyes and skin. This sensitivity could last six w
eeks or more. And patients could also experience temporary nausea and vomiting f
rom the treatment.
Currently, photodynamic therapy is being explored experimentally as an option fo
r mesothelioma patients. It is already in use for non-small cell lung cancer, ho
wever. Researchers are also exploring the possibility of combining photodynamic
therapy with other forms of treatment. For example, photodynamic therapy could b
e combined with surgery. If surgery was used to remove cancer from the lungs, th
en photodynamic therapy could be used on top of that to keep it from coming back
in places like the pleura, or lining of the lung. Researchers are also hoping t
o one day make photodynamic therapy useful as a treatment against large, solid t
umors. In the United States, the Federal Drug Administration has already approve
d several photodynamic drugs.
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