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Lancet. 1993 Jul 17;342(8864):147-8.

Photodynamic therapy of oral cancer: photosensitisation with systemic aminolaevulinic acid.

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National Medical Laser Centre, University College London Medical School, UK.


Photodynamic therapy with intravenous photosensitising drugs has been shown to be effective in the ablation of superficial cancers, but long-lasting photosensitivity is a serious disadvantage. Similar photosensitivity is a feature of certain types of porphyria. We present the first report of tumour necrosis brought about by photodynamic activation of a temporary endogenous porphyrin accumulation, after an oral dose of the haem precursor, 5-aminolaevulinic acid. In 4 patients, quantitative fluorescence microscopy showed that accumulation of the photoactive intermediate protoporphyrin IX peaked after 4-6 h in 4 oral cavity squamous cell carcinomas, returning to background in 24 h. Irradiation with non-thermal red laser light caused tumour necrosis in 3 patients.

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