Combination of medications and light therapy effective against head and neck cancers

A combination of medications and a particular light therapy is effective at treating certain types of head and neck cancers in subtropical climates.

In a paper presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO in San Diego, researchers from the University of Miami presented findings from a study on dysplasia and carcinomas of the head and neck. It analyzed the effect of photodynamic therapy (PDT), a treatment that uses a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light in tropical climates. The study involved 24 males and 22 females, with an average age of 66 years. A total of 82 different lesions were treated, mostly in the oral cavity and vocal chords.

Results revealed that organ preservation and cancer cure can be achieved in patients with recurrent cancer that is superficially spread in the head and neck, but not deeply infiltrated. However, the authors cautioned that patients need extensive instruction on how to take the medications and follow-up counseling.

PDT is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, may be repeated, and may be used with other therapies, such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, giving patients a variety of treatment options.

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