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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

10/1/2013 (6 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Women in the trial have had to agree to undergo a full mastectomy afterwards

A new treatment for breast cancer using lasers may soon make mastectomies unnecessary. Test subjects in the United Kingdom are reporting success, but undergo full mastectomies afterwards to insure that their cancer doesn't return.

The procedure involved injecting a drug into the tumor to make it sensitive to light. Using a needle, surgeons then shone an intensive laser beam into the cancer to kill it.

The procedure involved injecting a drug into the tumor to make it sensitive to light. Using a needle, surgeons then shone an intensive laser beam into the cancer to kill it.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/1/2013 (6 months ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Laser, breast cancer, tumor, experimental


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - One test subject, Fiona Fisher, a 57-year-old self-employed management consultant living in Primrose Hill, North London was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was at first incredulous that her doctors suggested their first move should be to try to kill the tumor by blasting it with a laser for 15 minutes.

The procedure involved injecting a drug into the tumor to make it sensitive to light. Using a needle, surgeons then shone an intensive laser beam into the cancer to kill it.

"The whole thing was less invasive than the biopsy that I had to confirm the diagnosis of cancer," Fisher says. While to some, this procedure smacks of "Quackery," or bad medicine, Fisher is at the center of one of the most authoritative experiments in the field of breast cancer.

Fisher became one of the first four patients of 30 in all to be given photodynamic therapy in the initial phase of a new trial at the Royal Free Hospital in North London.

First pioneered as a cancer therapy in the U.K. 25 years ago, the therapy is now approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as treatment of four cancers: the skin (though not melanoma), early or late cancers of head and neck, lung and esophageal.

"It's an extraordinary treatment that cuts the cost and time involved, and means patients don't have to undergo other treatments that cause very unpleasant side-effects," David Longman, founder of the charity Killing Cancer says.
 
"It's also quick; patients and their families know within a short period of time whether the cancer has been destroyed."

The procedure had serious drawbacks when first done. It stayed in the body for weeks, causing patients to be ultra-sensitive to ordinary light and be unable to leave the house for weeks after treatment.

The introduction of new drugs that leave the body within 48 hours has made the new procedure possible.

Fisher spent 48 hours after her treatment in a darkened room in a private ward of the Royal Free Hospital. "It was a wonderful and quite luxurious rest," she says.

Experts predict that photodynamic therapy could eventually make the non-invasive treatment the norm for some types of breast cancer. In other words, a cure without the need for surgery.

However -- as the treatment is unproven, the women in the trial have had to agree to undergo a full mastectomy afterwards. The trial cannot put the participants at any risk of their cancer returning. The tissue removed during mastectomies will be analyzed check the effects of the photodynamic therapy.

Fisher returned to the hospital to have a full mastectomy, as well as a reconstruction of her left breast. And next week she will embark on chemotherapy and radiotherapy, followed by a course of hormone tablets.

"I may be getting no benefit myself, but to know my contribution might change the experience of breast cancer for women in the future makes it worthwhile," she says.

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