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Adv Ther. 2018 Mar;35(3):324-340. doi: 10.1007/s12325-018-0659-3. Epub 2018 Feb 7.

A Review of Photodynamic Therapy for Neoplasms of the Head and Neck.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA.
The Netherlands Cancer Institute - Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Ear, Nose and Throat Specialty Care of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Department of Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ, USA.
University of Udine School of Medicine, Udine, Italy.
Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Department of Oncology, Section Head and Neck Oncology, University Hospitals Leuven, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
International Head and Neck Scientific Group, Padua, Italy.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the use of a phototoxic drug which is activated by low powered laser light to destroy neoplastic cells. Multiple photosensitizers have been studied and tumors have been treated in a variety of head and neck sites over the last 30 years. PDT can effectively treat head and neck tumors, particularly those of the superficial spreading type, and the classic application of this technology has been in the patient with a wide field of dysplastic change and superficial carcinomatosis. Interstitial treatment has been used to treat more invasive cancer. Data is available from case series and institutional experiences, but very little randomized data is available. We review the mechanisms of action, historical development, available data, and current knowledge regarding PDT for the various head and neck subsites, and discuss possible future directions, with an emphasis on clinical application.


Head and neck cancer; Laryngeal cancer; Lip cancer; Nasopharyngeal cancer; Oncology; Oral cavity cancer; Oropharyngeal cancer; Photodynamic therapy; Squamous cell carcinoma


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