Study Reveals How Improved Type of Light Therapy Kills Pre-Cancerous Cells

Researchers in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have developed an improved approach to treating actinic keratosis, a pre-cancerous skin condition usually treated with photodynamic therapy that patients often report as painful.

Findings from a clinical trial led by Cleveland Clinic physician-scientist Edward Maytin, MD, PhD, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in April of last year showed patients reported significantly less pain during a newer regimen of the therapy called painless photodynamic therapy (p-PDT) versus the conventional treatment. The newer regimen begins light therapy immediately following the application of liquid medication known as a photosynthesizer, while the conventional method allows for the photosynthesizer to absorb into the skin for an hour or more before light application. Dr. Maytin is a member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center's Developmental Therapeutics Program.

Late last year, a mechanistic study published in Photochemistry and Photobiology and led by Sanjay Anand, PhD, a project scientist in the Maytin lab, revealed that p-PDT is not only an effective therapy for actinic keratosis, but its effectiveness is tied to its ability to increase production and recruitment of a host of immune cell types. The signaling pathway of p-PDT is a contrast to that of conventional photodynamic therapy which primarily produces free radicals to induce pre-cancerous cell death.

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