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How Does Laser Treatment Work for Prostate Cancer?

In the field of prostate cancer treatment, new studies suggest that laser therapy is a promising option. Keep reading to learn more from the Prostate Cancer Institute.

Cancer

Photodynamic Therapy

Laser treatment is a type of photodynamic therapy (PDT) where light is used to activate photosensitive chemicals. Molecular oxygen is also commonly used in conjunction with this treatment to elicit cancer cell death in a process called phototoxicity. PDT has been successfully used to treat patients with severe acne as well as certain types of skin cancer. Photodynamic and laser therapy is generally more successful in these cases because the light has a shorter distance to travel. The further the light has to travel, the less successful the treatment. Unfortunately, this technology has been perpetuated as a treatment option for patients with brain and lung cancer. As of yet, PDT is ineffective in treating these areas of the body because it has to pass to several inches of bone and dense tissue to reach the affected areas. PDT is still considered experimental, but advances in laser therapy are closing the gap for patients with prostate cancer. Equally important, there are no long-term studies on the outcome of PDT, nor is it approved by the FDA.

Laser Prostate Treatment

This particular type of prostate treatment uses a variation of PDT called vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy or VTP. This treatment involves injecting a light-sensitive, bacteria-based drug into the patient’s bloodstream. The drug, WST11, comes from a bacteria that lives at the bottom of the ocean with the ability to convert small amounts of light into energy very efficiently. Optical fibers are also inserted into the affected prostate, usually inside the tumor itself. When a laser is fired into the prostate, the drug is activated on site. Unlike other traditional radiotherapy treatments, VTP doesn’t have the long-term side effects like impotence and incontinence. The treatment specifically targets the prostate instead of the entire body like other traditional cancer treatment options. Also, there are no long-term studies on the outcome of PDT, nor is it approved by the FDA.

Options for Patients

It’s important to note that VTP and laser prostate treatment is still fairly new. More testing is required to determine the effectiveness of this therapy, especially in patients with advanced stages of prostate cancer. So far, patients with a medium risk factor have been the most receptive to treatment. Patients who are less likely to die from prostate cancer are also less likely to benefit from this type of treatment. Ask your doctor if laser prostate cancer treatment is right for your particular diagnosis. But be sure to look at high intensity focus ultrasound (HIFU) as your best option.