In August, 2010, phytodynamic therapy (PDT), an advanced cancer treatment used in a hospital in Taipei, Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital, was reported to be effective in helping to extend the life of lung cancer patients who had been diagnosed as having a terminal form of the condition.
This hospital has been using the PDT technology – which was purchased from the United States in 2006 – for four years. During that time, eleven patients with terminal lung cancer have received the treatment, according to the chief of the Thoracic Surgery Department, Hsieh Yei-San.
Among those eleven patients, five are still alive, one of whom has been receiving the PDT treatments since November 2006. This is tremendous news, as it has been doubling the lifetime of the patients when compared with those who have undergone chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
This was explained by Hsieh in the following way. Because lung cancer is a rapidly growing form of the disease, upon diagnosis, many patients have already reached the terminal state. Therefore, the only options available to them for treatment are chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However, their efficacy is quite limited in extending the lives of the patients. Moreover their quality of life decreases significantly due to the side-effects of the treatments. Hsieh stated that among those patients there is only a twenty to thirty percent 5-year survival rate.
When using those therapies, the lifetime is, on average, extended by three months. Moreover, due to complications with the condition, such as the fluid in the pleura complication which will occur among thirty percent of cases, the chemotherapy and targeted therapies will often be rejected by the body and breathing difficulties may occur. After that point, a survival time of between six and nine months is typically all that is left.
Using PDT, on the other hand, with photosensitizing agents – medications that are light-sensitive – allows specific forms of light to specifically destroy cancer cells.