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Light-Based Therapy Leads to Longer Survival in Korean Mesothelioma Patient

asian patientA newly-published case study is the latest to indicate that photodynamic therapy – a light-based method of treating cancer – may enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy for mesothelioma.

Writing in a Korean medical journal, Doctors with the Dankook University College of Medicine in Cheonan, Korea detail the case of a 68-year-old mesothelioma patient who lived twice as long as most mesothelioma patients after receiving a combination of photodynamic therapy (PDT) and chemotherapy.

According to the doctors, the patient had already been through a round of chemotherapy at another hospital before coming to their facility. Not only had that chemotherapy not shrunk the man’s mesothelioma tumor, but the disease had actually progressed while he was on treatment. Unfortunately, this is not unusual with mesothelioma, which is highly resistant to standard therapies.

To improve the odds that a second round of chemotherapy would be more effective, and to treat the patient’s shortness of breath, the Dankook University team recommended PDT. As part of PDT, mesothelioma patients are given a light-sensitizing drug called NPe6. The mesothelioma cells absorb the drug, which then makes them susceptible to damage when a light is shined on them.

After the patient’s shortness of breath improved with PDT, he consented to another round of chemotherapy and received a combination of pemetrexed (Alimta) and cisplatin, a combination considered to be the “gold standard” for mesothelioma. The man received a second PDT treatment afterward and then underwent another round of chemotherapy with a different drug combination.

Whereas the median survival time for people with mesothelioma is about a year, the Dankook University patient lived for 27 months with the PDT/chemotherapy combination. His doctors say the next step for mesothelioma PDT research is to determine just the right administration protocol to take full advantage of the synergistic effect between PDT and chemotherapy.

PDT for mesothelioma has been the subject of several studies in recent years. Late last year, doctors in Japan determined that lab mice receiving pemetrexed prior to PDT treatment had longer survival than those who received the treatment after chemotherapy. These mice also experienced an 80% reduction in mesothelioma tumor size and very slow regrowth.


Ryu, JW and Kim, YS, “A case of advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment with chemotherapy and photodynamic therapy”, January 2015, Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases,

Maehara, S et al, “Combination effect of photodynamic therapy using NPe6 with pemetrexed for human malignant pleural mesothelioma cells”, November 10, 2014, International Journal of Oncology, Epub head of print

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