Head and neck cancer patients who do not respond to other treatment benefit from photodynamic therapy with Foscan


Patients with head and neck cancer, who are otherwise unresponsive to further treatment, can derive great benefit from treatment with photodynamic therapy (PDT) and Foscan . This has been con-firmed by researchers in a European author team led by the Nederlands Kanker Instituut – Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (NKI-AVL), which has just published the re-sults in an article in the respected journal Wiley InterScience.
The study was done with patients who had already undergone all other forms of treatment for head and neck cancer, and for whom there was no possibility of further treatment. The study showed that 68% of these patients, who formerly could not hope for a cure, responded well or very well to PDT treatment. The probability of these patients living another five years tumor-free is approx. 40%. Thus, PDT treatment appears to make a cure possible for some of these patients. This international study under the direction of the NKI-AVL confirms the results of an earlier study published by D’Cruz in 2004.

Photodynamic therapy is currently used primarily for head and neck cancer pa-tients (with the exception of brain tumors), for whom none of the standard therapies such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination thereof have been effective. Affected patients receive the photo-sensitizer medication Foscan from biolitec, either locally or intravenously, depending on the location of the tumor. Over the following days the patient should avoid bright daylight. Once the photosensitizer has concentrated in the tumor tissue (usually after four days), it is exposed to laser light. The central feature of the treatment is its de-struction of cancerous tissue cells through activation of the photosensitizer in-gredient by the laser light.

A new version of the treatment is the interstitial photodynamic therapy (IPDT) for larger tumors. In this procedure, special light conductors are inserted into the tumor and irradiate it from within. This makes it possible to treat also deeper tumors in the head and neck area.

Every year in the Netherlands around 2.400 persons, mostly middle-aged or eld-erly, develop head or neck cancer. Of these 2.400 patients, around 400 are suit-able for PDT treatment.

Currently, a cost-benefit study of PDT treatment with Foscan is underway in the Netherlands. For this study the NKI-AVL is looking for patients suitable for the therapy, to receive the treatment free of charge.

The study is being led by Prof. Bing Tan of the NKI in Amsterdam. The university clinics in Groningen, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Maastricht are also participating. Patients interested in taking part in the study and potentially benefiting from the new therapy are invited to contact the NKI-AVL or one of the other academic centers in the Netherlands.