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Photochem Photobiol. 2008 May-Jun;84(3):779-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-1097.2007.00260.x. Epub 2008 Jan 7.

Photodynamic therapy of nonmelanoma skin cancer with topical hypericum perforatum extract--a pilot study.

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Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Medical School and Teaching Hospital Pilsen, Charles University, Pilsen, Czech Republic.


Hypericin, the photoactive compound of Hypericum perforatum, is probably the most powerful photosensitizer found in nature. This compound has shown high potency in the photodynamic treatment of tumor cells. However, there is only limited knowledge regarding the photodynamic effect of hypericin on nonmelanoma skin cancer cells. The aim of this prospective study was to investigate the efficacy of photodynamic therapy with topical application of an extract of H. perforatum in actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and morbus Bowen (carcinoma in situ). The study was carried out on 34 patients--eight with actinic keratoses (AKs), 21 with BCC and five with Bowen's disease. The extract of H. perforatum was applied on the skin lesions under occlusion and that was followed by irradiation with 75 J cm(-2) of red light 2 h later. The treatment was performed weekly for 6 weeks on average. The percentage of complete clinical response was 50% for AKs, 28% in patients with superficial BCC and 40% in patients with Bowen's disease. There was only a partial remission seen in patients with nodular BCCs. A complete disappearance of tumor cells was found in the histologic preparation of 11% of patients with superficial BCCs and 80% in the patients with Bowen's disease. All patients complained of burning and pain sensations during irradiation. Although the results of this first clinical trial could be regarded as disappointing, there are still possibilities for improvement. Better preparation of the lesions, enhancement of hypericin delivery and other types of light exposure procedures could significantly improve the clinical outcomes of this relatively inexpensive treatment modality.

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