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Cancer in the Crosshairs

Photonics Spectra
Aug 1999
Michael D. Wheeler, News Editor

One problem of radiation and chemotherapy is the ravaging effect it can have on healthy, noncancerous cells. In the last few years, one treatment has gained attention as a viable alternative for some forms of esophageal and early-stage lung cancer: photodynamic therapy.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the use of molecules called photosensitizers, which, when exposed to a light source, transfer energy to surrounding oxygen molecules and produce compounds that damage vital cell components, eventually causing cell death. These compounds tend to accumulate in abnormal or proliferating cells -- particularly the cells of new vessels that feed growing tumors. This enables surgeons to isolate cancer cells and selectively destroy them.


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