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Light therapy finds a voice

BioPhotonics
Apr 2011
Compiled by BioPhotonics staff

DETROIT – Early-stage laryngeal cancer typically is treated with radiation therapy alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. However, a new study at the Henry Ford Hospital has found that photodynamic therapy could be an effective alternative treatment method that preserves the voice and vocal cord function.

Because more than 10,000 people annually are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in the US, researchers have sought less invasive options that have fewer side effects, yet also preserve the ability to talk. In photodynamic therapy, a laser is used to activate a nontoxic drug called Photofrin, which causes a reaction in the cancer cells that destroys the tumor tissue without harming the surrounding healthy tissue.

The method does not damage any underlying tissue, so it is safe for multiple treatments, and it can be given before or after other therapies, and when radiation therapy fails. More than 200 procedures have been conducted at Henry Ford.

The recent study followed 10 patients with early-stage squamous cell tumors of the larynx who were treated with light therapy. To assess how well vocal cords moved after the therapy, each patient’s larynx was examined using videostroboscopy, a technique that provides a magnified, slow-motion view of the vocal cords in use.

During the five weeks following the treatment, the researchers found a significant worsening in the nonvibrating portion of the affected vocal cords. However, 10 weeks after treatment, improvement was significant.

The investigators noted that in the weeks and months after treatment, there were consistent trends toward normal vocal cord vibration.

There is currently no consensus as to which treatment – surgery, radiation therapy or photodynamic therapy – offers the best outcome in terms of voice preservation. The researchers plan to investigate the topic further.



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