Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?

Is photodynamic therapy an effective treatment for lung cancer?

Updated: 02-15-2013

Answer

Photodynamic therapy may play a limited role in lung cancer treatment — generally complementing, rather than replacing, other forms of treatment.

Photodynamic therapy may be an option for treating superficial non-small cell lung cancers that haven't spread beyond the lungs and those that are located in areas easily reached with the tools used during the treatment.

Photodynamic therapy begins with the injection of a light-sensitive medication into a vein. One to three days later, the doctor shines light of a certain wavelength onto the tumor from inside the body — typically using a thin, lighted tube called a bronchoscope, which is passed through the mouth into the lungs. The light destroys the cells that have absorbed the light-sensitive medication.

After photodynamic therapy, your whole body is sensitive to light. Generally you need to avoid any exposure to bright light, including the sun, for up to eight weeks after treatment.

Photodynamic therapy isn't effective for cancer that has spread beyond the lung or tumors that can't be reached by the bronchoscope.

Site view: at a glance