Skip Navigation

Multimodality Imaging for Photodynamic Therapy of Head and Neck Cancer

Author: Baowei Fei, PhD

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is increasingly recognized as a new therapy for treating various cancers in clinical trials worldwide. The American Cancer Society website has listed the advantages of photodynamic therapy. “Studies have shown that PDT can work as well as surgery or radiation therapy in treating certain kinds of cancers and pre-cancers. It has some advantages, such as: (i) It has no long-term side effects when used properly. (ii) It is less invasive than surgery, (iii) It usually takes only a short time and is most often done as an outpatient.

(iv) It can be targeted very precisely. (v) Unlike radiation, PDT can be repeated many times at the same site if needed. (vi)There is little or no scarring after the site heals. (vii) It is often less expensive than other cancer treatments.”  Because of these advantages, PDT is growing in the US and in other nations.

The ClinicalTrials.Gov database lists more than 215 clinical trials on photodynamic therapy. As Phase II and III clinical trials of new drugs can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, there is a need to develop quantitative imaging methods for early assessment and optimization of the clinical trials, and there is the potential to minimize these huge costs before a phase III clinical trial is completed but unfortunately fails. Molecular imaging-based very early assessment would allow both clinicians and patients to know the treatment effect a few hours or a few days after therapy and thus could save not only medical costs but also save time to treat cancer and save lives.

Figure 1: Photodynamic Therapy of Head and Neck Cancer

Photodynamic Therapy of Head and Neck Cancer

Traditional therapeutic response assessment methods are based on tumor size variations using conventional anatomic imaging, which often requires weeks or months to determine treatment effect and thus can delay the critical time for treating cancers. There is need to develop more sensitive and specific quantitative imaging techniques as surrogate biomarkers for early assessment of therapeutic response and for ever-growing numbers of clinical trials of new therapies.

In this proposed research, we focus on utilizing molecular imaging technology to detect and predict PDT treatment effect at a very early stage (a few hours to a few days after therapy). Accurate cancer prognosis and assessment of therapeutic response can help clinicians to personalize the therapy for each individual and thus improve treatment outcome.

Project Team

Baowei Fei, PhD, EngD; Georgia Chen, PhD; Ronald Voll, PhD; Dong M. Shin, MD