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Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2002 Oct;7(2):321-34.

Photodynamic therapy systems and applications.

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DUSA Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 400 Columbus Avenue, Valhalla, New York 10595, USA.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a form of photochemotherapy requiring the simultaneous presence of a photosensitiser, activating light of the proper wavelength and molecular oxygen in order to produce a localised therapeutic effect thought to be due to high-energy singlet oxygen generation. Neither drug nor light alone are effective as therapeutic agents and thus PDT treatment methods should be looked upon as true, necessary, drug and device combinations ('systems'). Selectivity of treatment is imparted by a combination of factors, including accumulation of photosensitiser by the target lesion and targeted application of activating light. The most common systemic side effect of systemically administered photosensitisers is cutaneous photosensitivity of varying periods of time. Local toxicities depend on the area of treatment. Sources of light which have been used in PDT include lasers, arc lamps, light-emitting diodes and fluorescent lamps. PDT has been used for a wide variety of clinical applications. In 1995, the first PDT system, using porfimer sodium (Photofrin, Axcan Pharma, Inc.), lasers and fibre optic light delivery methods, developed by QuadraLogic Technologies, was approved in the US for endoscopic palliation of malignant dysphagia caused by oesophageal cancer. A topical PDT system, aminolevulinic acid HCL (Levulan Kerastick) and the large-area BLU-U PDT Illuminator, was developed by DUSA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for the treatment of actinic keratoses of the face and scalp and approved in the US in 2000. Topical PDT has applicability to a wide variety of skin cancers and precancerous conditions. In 2001, Novartis launched the systemically administered verteporfin (Visudyne) laser-based PDT system in the US as the first pharmacologic treatment for age-related macular degeneration. Development programmes are continuing to investigate PDT for the potential treatment of a variety of diseases, yielding therapeutic results with minimal toxicity.

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