Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a drug called a photosensitizer that is activated by light (Zhu and Finlay 2008; Wilson and Patterson 2008). PDT can treat accessible solid tumors such as basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer (see Sect. 14.10.4). An example of PDT is the surface application of 5-aminolevulinic acid, which is absorbed by the tumor cells and is transformed metabolically into the photosensitizer protoporphyrin IX. When this molecule interacts with light in the 600–800-nm range (red and near infrared), often delivered with a diode laser, it converts molecular oxygen into a highly reactive singlet state that causes necrosis, apoptosis (programmed cell death), or damage to the vasculature that can make the tumor ischemic. Some internal tumors can be treated using light carried by optical fibers introduced through an endoscope.

The chemical structure of 5-aminolevulinic acid. From Wikipedia.
The chemical structure of protoporphyrin IX. From Wikipedia.

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