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Photodynamic Therapy is Lighting the Way for Medical and Cosmetic Treatments
(press release from AAD)
FRANCISCO (March 6, 2006) *
For the millions of people who suffer from acne, sun damage or even worse,
skin cancer, there is a light of hope Ė photodynamic therapy or PDT.
Originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat
cancer, dermatologists initially focused on using PDT to treat actinic keratoses (AKs), the earliest stages in the development of skin cancer. As
PDT treatments became refined, the therapy expanded to provide patients with a
safe, non-invasive treatment option for acne, sun damage and potentially basal
and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of cancer in the
Speaking today at the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of
Dermatology, dermatologist Arielle N.B. Kauvar, M.D., clinical associate
professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York
City, discussed how dermatologists are using PDT to successfully treat a
variety of medical and cosmetic skin conditions.
"As we used photodynamic therapy to treat actinic keratoses, dermatologists
discovered a variety of cosmetic benefits," said Dr. Kauvar. "Over the years,
the uses of photodynamic therapy have expanded beyond the treatment of skin
cancer and today it is being used to treat acne-related disorders and to help
rejuvenate sun-damaged or aging skin."
PDT is a non-invasive treatment which uses a laser or light energy to activate
a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent called aminolerulinic acid (ALA).
ALA is topically applied to the skin that is to be treated. Depending on the
condition and severity, application time can vary from 30 minutes to several
hours. A light source is then used to activate the ALA. This procedure,
called topical ALA-PDT, allows specific areas of the skin to be treated while
causing little or no damage to the surrounding skin and requiring minimal
downtime for the patient.
The most common use for PDT in dermatology is the treatment of superficial
non-melanoma skin cancer, in particular actinic keratoses (AKs). PDT appears
to be the most efficient for the treatment of widespread AKs because the ALA
concentrates in the abnormal cells as well as in the oil glands and hair
follicles. The light source then damages or destroys the tissues that have
absorbed the ALA. In some cases, AKs can be treated by a single application
Since ALA concentrates in rapidly growing and malignant cells, ALA-PDT is
being studied for the treatment of superficial basal and squamous cell
carcinomas. "ALA-PDT is currently being used on superficial skin cancers on
an experimental basis and results are very positive with tumors healing in one
to two sessions," explained Dr. Kauvar. "Research is beginning to show that
PDT may even protect against the development of squamous cell carcinomas."
As PDT research advanced, cosmetic improvements in patients with long-term sun
damage was discovered. When topical ALA-PDT was used to treat large areas of
sun-damaged skin, it became apparent that in addition to treating early
cancerous growth, the treatment also produced cosmetic benefits. ALA-PDT
helped decrease redness, reduce sun spots and freckles and it improved the
overall appearance of skin including fine lines and rough skin.
"Sun damage is one of the most common conditions treated by dermatologists,"
said Dr. Kauvar. "Photodynamic therapy allows dermatologists to directly
treat sun-damaged areas and improve cosmetic the skinís appearance without
damaging surrounding skin."
More than 80 percent of Americans are affected by acne, most commonly in their
teenage years. PDT targets the three main factors that cause acne: the
overproduction of oil by enlarged oil glands in the skin; blockage of the hair
follicles that release the oil; and a growth of bacteria called P. acnes
within the hair follicles. Once applied to the skin, the ALA is absorbed in
the oil glands and hair follicles. When activated by the intense light or
laser, the ALA damages the oil glands and reduces the P. acnes bacteria. This
treatment helps diminish, and in some cases completely remove, acne.
"Several studies have shown dramatic improvements in inflammatory acne lesions
with one or more treatments," said Dr. Kauvar. "Another benefit is that it
helps promote collagen formation and renewal which can help diminish acne
scarring." Dr. Kauvar also noted that this advancement has alleviated the
treatment time and side effects for many patients who previously relied on
isotretinoin or the long-term use of antibiotics.
"Photodynamic therapy has come a long way in the treatment of various skin
conditions," said Dr. Kauvar. "Topical ALA-PDT is able to effectively treat
affected areas of the skin without damaging the surrounding skin and without
the side effects of other treatments for precancerous growths and sun damage.
It also leaves the patient with excellent cosmetic results in very little
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American
Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most
influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a
membership of more than 15,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed
to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of
the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice,
education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient
care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information,
contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or
Knowledge is Power.
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