Skin Cancers Destroyed
By Light & Oxygen therapy
By Helen Rumbelow - Medical Reporter
First results of a light-activated treatment for some cancers, particularly of the throat and mouth, may offer hope for otherwise terminal cases, it was revealed yesterday.
The treatment is a radical departure from the traditional therapies of X-rays and chemotherapy which can cause harm to the surrounding tissue.
In the new photodynamic therapy a cream is injected around a cancerous tumour and a light is beamed on to it. As it glows a drug, Foscan temoporfin, releases oxygen that destroys the cancerous cells, thus minimising damage to healthy tissue.
The details of the medical breakthrough were announced yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncologists in New Orleans. Dr Barry Wenig, chief researcher for Scotia, the drug's manufacturer, presented the results of trials on 64 patients terminally ill with skin cancer.
"These patients were classed as incurable and the only other option was to refer them to hospices," Dr Wenig said. But they were treated with the drug and four days later the tumour was strongly illuminated with a red light.
An independent panel of experts, which included palliative medicine specialists, oncologists, surgeons, photodynamic therapy practitioners and radiotherapists judged that 58 per cent of patients had extended their survival time. They also found that 25 per cent of patients achieved a complete or partial reduction of their tumour. In 16 per cent of the cases the tumour was completely killed.
Dr Wenig said: "These results are very significant and exciting. It is important to remember that we were dealing with patients who were considered incurable. In light of this, the results are remarkable."
The drug is not yet licensed for use in America or Europe as tests are continuing. In Britain a large, two-year trial is underway in Leeds.


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