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Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Jul 15;14(14):4475-83. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-07-5199.

Irradiance-dependent photobleaching and pain in delta-aminolevulinic acid-photodynamic therapy of superficial basal cell carcinomas.

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  • 1Department of Imaging Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA.



In superficial basal cell carcinomas treated with photodynamic therapy with topical delta-aminolevulinic acid, we examined effects of light irradiance on photodynamic efficiency and pain. The rate of singlet-oxygen production depends on the product of irradiance and photosensitizer and oxygen concentrations. High irradiance and/or photosensitizer levels cause inefficient treatment from oxygen depletion in preclinical models.


Self-sensitized photobleaching of protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) fluorescence was used as a surrogate metric for photodynamic dose. We developed instrumentation measuring fluorescence and reflectance from lesions and margins during treatment at 633 nm with various irradiances. When PpIX was 90% bleached, irradiance was increased to 150 mW/cm(2) until 200 J/cm(2) were delivered. Pain was monitored.


In 33 superficial basal cell carcinomas in 26 patients, photobleaching efficiency decreased with increasing irradiance above 20 mW/cm(2), consistent with oxygen depletion. Fluences bleaching PpIX fluorescence 80% (D80) were 5.7 +/- 1.6, 4.5 +/- 0.3, 7.5 +/- 0.8, 7.4 +/- 0.3, 12.4 +/- 0.3, and 28.7 +/- 7.1 J/cm(2), respectively, at 10, 20, 40, 50, 60 and 150 mW/cm(2). At 20-150 mW/cm(2), D80 doses required 2.5-3.5 min; times for the total 200 J/cm(2) were 22.2-25.3 min. No significant pain occurred up to 50 mW/cm(2); pain was not significant when irradiance then increased. Clinical responses were comparable to continuous 150 mW/cm(2) treatment.


Photodynamic therapy with topical delta-aminolevulinic acid using approximately 40 mW/cm(2) at 633 nm is photodynamically efficient with minimum pain. Once PpIX is largely photobleached, higher irradiances allow efficient, rapid delivery of additional light. Optimal fluence at a single low irradiance is yet to be determined.

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