An advanced cancer treatment known as photodynamic therapy (PDT) has been found to be effective in extending the lives of terminal lung cancer patients, a surgeon at the Taipei-based Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital said.
Eleven terminal lung cancer patients have received the treatment since the hospital purchased PDT equipment in 2006, said Hsieh Yei-san (謝義山), chief of the Thoracic Surgery Department.
PDT is a treatment that uses light-sensitive medication (sometimes called a photosensitizing agent) together with a specific type of light to destroy cancer cells.
The therapy enables surgeons to kill cancer cells that other kinds of surgical procedures cannot, Hsieh said.
In Taiwan, a PDT procedure costs about NT$500,000, Hsieh said.
Five of the patients are still alive, including one who underwent therapy in November 2006, Hsieh said.
“Compared with chemotherapy and targeted therapy, PDT can, on average, double a patient’s life expectancy,” he said.
As lung cancer cells grow quickly, many patients are already at the terminal stage when diagnosed and can only be prescribed chemotherapy or radiation therapy, he said.
Those treatments, however, offer limited scope in extending patients’ life spans, Hsieh said, citing statistics showing the five-year survival rate for such patients is only 20 to 30 percent.
“Even with targeted therapy, life can only be extended for an additional three months on average,” he said.
Hsieh said 30 percent of terminal lung cancer patients develop complications such as fluid in the pleura, the thin covering that protects and cushions the lungs, resulting in breathing difficulties. Others may develop a reaction to chemo or targeted therapies.
Once the cancer spreads, the average survival period drops to six to nine months, he said.
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