The National Cancer Institute awarded an $8 million grant to the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine to study the effects of photodynamic light therapy (PDT) in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The grant will fund a clinical trial and additional studies looking at the effects of PDT on the patient’s immune response, the mesothelioma tumor cell , and the blood vessels surrounding the tumor.
Dr. Eli Glatstein is the principal investigator of the program. He is also the professor and vice chair of Radiation Oncology, and member of Penn’s Mesothelioma and Pleural Program. According to Dr. Glatstein, “This trial represents a major step in understanding the combination of treatment modalities that will offer patients the best hope for survival and extended remission.”
The study expects to enroll 102 patients over four years. Patient will be administered Photofrin, a photosensitizing agent that makes cancer cells more sensitive to dying from light therapy, 24 hours prior to surgery.
The patients will then undergo a radical pleurectomy. The patents will then be divided into two groups: half will receive PDT intraoperatively via an intense laser inserted in the chest cavity during the surgery, along with post-operative standard chemotherapy; and half who will receive only post-operative chemotherapy. Photofrin absorbs the light from the laser and produces an active form of oxygen that can destroy residual microscopic cancer cells left behind after surgery.
“PDT has been a part of our treatment regimen along with a lung-sparing surgery for many years, but a randomized clinical trial such as this remains necessary to prove its efficacy,” says Glatstein.
PDT is known to kill cancer cells, but researchers also seek to understand the patient’s immune response, the tumor microenvironment and the blood vessels in and surrounding the tumor in three additional studies funded under the grant.
“This trial will help us understand how PDT works in the body and what we may be able to do in the future to improve the body’s response to the therapy,” says Glatstein.
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