Amazing Advances in Cancer Treatments Using UV Light:
UK – Ultralight or Phototherapy
USA -Photodynamic Therapy
In this new digital age, we are becoming used to advances and changes in many areas of life. The use of concentrated light in areas such as lasers in eye treatments is now over 50 years old and improves the sight of people regularly. Cancer research has also seen advances and the success of treatments near to the skin surface has opened the door to more investigations and research into its effectiveness deeper into the body.
Ultraviolet (UV) light from sunlight is often a cause of sunburn and skin cancer. Now that knowledge has been turned around for the use of Phototherapy, which utilises UV light to kill cancer cells in the skin.
Ultraviolet light is a relatively new system for treating skin conditions, including a skin cancer known as T Cell Lymphoma.
In the UK the treatment is known by its abbreviation as PUVA.
PUVA stands for Psoralen Ultraviolet Light Treatment or Application.
The Psoralen part is a drug that you take to make your skin sensitive to light. You would take this for a period before the actual Light Treatment. You would take this in a tablet form.
Ultraviolet Light is applied after the drug Psoralen is fully absorbed into the skin. The doctor shines the light onto the treatment area, or you stand in a cubicle with tubes that give off the ultraviolet light. For this, you may have to be naked with just your eyes protected with goggles or a visor.
This treatment is applied 2 to 3 times per week over a period of a few months to enable 20 to 30 treatments in all.
In the USA, the drug taken before the light treatment is known as a photosensitizer and can be applied by wiping on the skin, intravenously, and in tablet form.
A slightly different tablet photosensitizer is used known as Porfimer Sodium, which can make your skin and eyes extremely sensitive to light, natural sunlight, and bright indoor lights for about 6 weeks.
Aftercare: With all of these treatments and during the period after your skin will be extremely sensitive to light and it is recommended that you take great care over your skin:
- Don’t expose yourself to Sun Lamps, wear lip balm and sunscreen.
- In sunny times use sunblock or high factor sunscreen on all exposed skin.
- Don’t sit next to a window because UV rays get magnified.
- On treatment days you should cover up all exposed skin, wear gloves, even a wide-brimmed hat.
While in the UK most of these treatments are used for skin treatments or areas close to the surface, in the USA they are experimenting further into the body and other cancers.
Since finding that UV light has the effect of killing cancer cells researchers are studying ways of expanding its use and improving the equipment they use to deliver the light into the body.
For skin cancers, light is applied at the site of the tumour.
In the throat, airways, and lungs, the doctor inserts an endoscope tube down the throat. Inside that tube is a thin fibre optic cable and light is transmitted directly to the cancer cells.
In another type of Photodynamic Therapy abnormal white blood cells are collected by a machine that extracts them from the body, treats them with the photosensitizer, zaps them with the UV Light, and afterward returns them to the body via a needle into a vein.
A New Light Therapy Can Reach Deeper into the Body
Light Therapies have been limited to near the surface of the skin or where it can be delivered directly to the tumour but studies are happening now in the USA that can go deeper.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have devised a method that can get the light to deeper tissues than have ever been accessible. Rather than aiming for an outside light, they managed to deliver the light directly to those deeper cancer cells using a photosensitive source of free radicals that can be activated by the light to destroy the cancer cells. They managed to do this with materials already approved for use against cancers.
A material that is toxic to cancer cells is delivered internally to the site of the tumour, and these are activated by light therapy outside the body and before delivery, and a combination of materials works to kill off the cancers at the site.
These are indeed exciting discoveries for less painful and targeted treatments in the future.