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Cancer Treat Rev. 2011 Oct;37(6):465-75. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2010.11.007. Epub 2010 Dec 17.

Combating melanoma: the use of photodynamic therapy as a novel, adjuvant therapeutic tool.

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  • 1Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town Medical School, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa.


Metastatic malignant melanoma remains one of the most dreaded skin cancers worldwide. Numerous factors contribute to its resistance to hosts of treatment regimes and despite significant scientific advances over the last decade in the field of chemotherapeutics and melanocytic targets, there still remains the need for improved therapeutic modalities. Photodynamic therapy, a minimally invasive therapeutic modality has been shown to be effective in a number of oncologic and non-oncologic conditions. Using second-generation stable, lipophilic photosensitizers with optimised wavelengths, PDT may be a promising tool for adjuvant therapy in combating melanoma. Potential targets for PDT in melanoma eradication include cell proliferation inhibition, activation of cell death and reduction in pro-survival autophagy and a decrease in the cellular melanocytic antioxidant system. This review highlights the current knowledge with respect to these characteristics and suggests that PDT be considered as a good candidate for adjuvant treatment in post-resected malignant metastatic melanoma. Furthermore, it suggests that primary consideration must be given to organelle-specific destruction in melanoma specifically targeting the melanosomes - the one organelle that is specific to cells of the melanocytic lineage that houses the toxic compound, melanin. We believe that using this combined knowledge may eventually lead to an effective therapeutic tool to combat this highly intractable disease.

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