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Ann Surg. 1999 Jul;230(1):12-23.

Current concepts in gastrointestinal photodynamic therapy.

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Department of Surgery, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA.



To review current concepts of photodynamic therapy (PDT) applied to the treatment of tumors of the gastrointestinal tract.


PDT initially involves the uptake or production of a photosensitive compound by tumor cells. Subsequent activation of the photoreactive compound by a specific wavelength of light results in cell death, either directly or as a result of vascular compromise and/or apoptosis.


The authors selectively review current concepts relating to photosensitization, photoactivation, time of PDT application, tissue selectivity, sites of photodynamic action, PDT effects on normal tissue, limitations of PDT, toxicity of photosensitizers, application of principles of PDT to tumor detection, and current applications of PDT to tumors of the gastrointestinal tract.


PDT is clearly effective for small cancers, but it is not yet clear in which cases such treatment is more effective than other currently acceptable approaches. The major side effect of PDT is cutaneous photosensitization. The major limitation of PDT is depth of tumor kill. As data from current and future clinical trials become available, a clearer perspective of where PDT fits in the treatment of cancers will be gained. Many issues regarding pharmacokinetic data of photosensitizers, newer technology involved in light sources, optimal treatment regimens that take advantage of the pharmacophysiology of photoablation, and light dosimetry still require solution. One can foresee application of differing sensitizers and light sources depending on the specific clinical situation. As technologic advances occur, interstitial PDT may have significant application.


PDT has a potentially important role either as a primary or adjuvant mode of treatment of tumors of the gastrointestinal tract.

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