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Br J Cancer. 1994 Mar;69(3):605-8.

Superficial photodynamic therapy with topical 5-aminolaevulinic acid for superficial primary and secondary skin cancer.

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  • 1Academic Unit of Radiotherapy, Cookridge Hospital, Leeds, UK.


Between January 1991 and December 1992 a phase I trial of superficial photodynamic therapy (PDT) using topical application of 5-aminolaevulinic acid (ALA) was undertaken to treat Bowen's disease, superficial basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and metastatic skin secondaries from breast (adenocarcinoma) or pinna (squamous cell carcinoma). Promising results were obtained with 36 areas of Bowen's disease, with a complete response rate of 89% at a median follow-up of 18 months. The treatment of BCCs was less successful, with 50% complete responses in 16 lesions at a median follow-up of 17 months. Metastatic nodules responded poorly. The treatment was well tolerated and discomfort during light irradiation could be reduced by prior application of 'Emla' cream. Lesions wept for 1-2 weeks following treatment and healed over a period of approximately 2 months. For large areas of Bowen's disease, particularly in anatomically difficult areas and in elderly patients, PDT using ALA may constitute a single simple alternative outpatient treatment to existing therapies. Further work is required to improve the results with BCCs.

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