Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for esophageal cancer is a palliative (non-curative) treatment used for patients with swallowing difficulty caused by an obstructing tumor. PDT is also approved for the non-surgical treatment of Barrett’s Esophagus complicated by high grade dysplasia.
PDT uses a combination of photoactive drug (a drug activated by light) and light from a laser. An injection of the photoactive drug PHOTOFRIN® is absorbed by your body’s tissues, including cancerous or precancerous cells. Over a couple of days, the drug is eliminated from most healthy tissue. However, it remains in cancer cells and certain other organs. Approximately 2 days after the PHOTOFRIN® injection, your physician will specifically target and destroy cancerous cells with a laser light delivered by a fiber optic endoscope. During your procedure, the light activates the drug present within the cancerous cells and destroys them while limiting damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The light used in photodynamic therapy does not burn. Sedation is given during this procedure and little or no discomfort should be felt during your procedure.
The major side effect of PDT is photosensitivity due to the continued presence of the drug in your skin. For approximately 30 days after a PHOTOFRIN® injection your skin and eyes will be very sensitive to bright light. Patients are advised to avoid bright lights and direct sunlight to prevent sunburn, redness and swelling. In addition, local swelling and inflammation occurring in and around the treated area may cause temporary physical discomfort including pain in the chest, back, or abdomen and breathing difficulties.
The use of PDT in esophageal cancer is not curative, but can dramatically improve swallowing ability in patients with obstructing tumors. For patients with Barrett’s Esophagus complicated by high-grade dysplasia, PDT is an alternative to surgical intervention. Following destruction of abnormal Barrett’s tissue by PDT, normal esophageal tissue usually grows back and surgery can potentially be avoided.
Photodynamic Therapy is performed at Portsmouth Regional Hospital by Dr. Aristotle J. Damianos. For more information regarding PDT or any other gastrointestinal procedure, please contact your PCP for referral or contact appointment scheduling in our Portsmouth office to schedule a consult with Dr. Damianos.