- 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
- 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
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
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