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  • Urologists Study New Photosensitizer
Jan 2005
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Jan. 14 -- Urologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center's James P. Wilmot Cancer Center are joining an international clinical study of hexvix, a new photosensitizer -- a liquid dye inserted into the bladder -- to improve detection of small tumors that will likely grow after surgery.

The photosensitizer, when placed in the bladder, makes cancer cells glow bright pink under a blue light, facilitating their detection and removal during a cystoscopy, during which surgeons insert a thin, lighted instrument -- a cystoscope -- into the urethra and bladder for examination of tissues.

Hexvix, or hexyl aminolevulinate, is similar to a chemical found naturally in the body and contains porphyrins. Cancer cells absorb this substance faster than healthy cells, and they turn fluorescent pink when the cystoscope light changes from white to blue.

Edward M. Messing, MD, urology chair at the Wilmot Cancer Center, said, "The change in color is dramatic, and this lets us see tiny tumors, or satellite tumors, that we wouldn’t have seen before with traditional white lighting during cystoscopy."

The Wilmot Cancer Center is the only upstate New York site testing this new technique. The randomized Phase III study of hexvix will enroll 620 people in the US, Canada and Europe, including about 30 in Rochester. Hexvix, developed by PhotoCure ASA of Norway, is used in European countries, and this study may open its use to patients in the US. PhotoCure is funding this study.

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A substance that increases a material's sensitivity to electromagnetic irradiation. In photodynamic therapy, a drug used to render a target tissue sensitive to laser light.
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