Light-Based Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest cancers, and its incidence has been steadily increasing. The lethal nature of this cancer is partly due to the fact that most cases are diagnosed at a late stage.  Nine out of every ten cases have inoperable tumors at the time of diagnosis, and most patients already have extensive metastases, primarily to the liver, peritoneum, and the lymphatic system. The five-year survival rates are extremely low, and patients who go without treatment survive on average only a few months.

Scientists at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health, University College London recently conducted a systematic review of pancreatic cancer treatments.  They concluded that photodynamic therapy (PDT) should be considered among the treatment option for these patients, and that newer photosensitizers offer a shorter drug-light interval and faster drug elimination time, thus overcoming the main shortcoming of previous photosensitizers, namely the prolonged skin sensitivity to light after the treatment, as reported in the 7 March 2014 World Journal of Gastroenterology.

In other research, scientists at the University of California San Diego (USA) have developed a method of distinguishing normal tissue from pancreatic cancer using a special fluorescence technology known as fluorophore-conjugated antibody to carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA).  The objective of this study was to evaluate whether fluorescence-guided surgery (FGS) with this new fluorophore-based technology, could better highlight the tumor, improve surgical outcomes, and increase disease-free survival and overall survival in mouse models of human pancreatic cancer.

The findings confirm that fluorescence-guided surgery led to greater cure rates and that survival was superior  using the fluorophore technology.  Thus fluorophore-based FGS has the potential to substantially improve the surgical treatment of pancreatic cancer, as reported in the April 2014 Annals of Surgical Oncology.


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Metildi CA1, Kaushal S, Pu M, Messer KA, Luiken GA, Moossa AR, Hoffman RM, Bouvet M. Fluorescence-guided Surgery with a Fluorophore-conjugated Antibody to Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA), that Highlights the Tumor, Improves Surgical Resection and Increases Survival in Orthotopic Mouse Models of Human Pancreatic Cancer. Ann Surg Oncol. 2014 Apr;21(4):1405-11.

Hiroshima Y1, Maawy A2, Sato S3, Murakami T3, Uehara F4, Miwa S4, Yano S4, Momiyama M3, Chishima T3, Tanaka K3, Bouvet M5, Endo I3, Hoffman RM4. Hand-held high-resolution fluorescence imaging system for fluorescence-guided surgery of patient and cell-line pancreatic tumors growing orthotopically in nude mice. J Surg Res. 2014 Apr;187(2):510-7.

Keane MG, Bramis K, Pereira SP, Fusai GK.  Systematic review of novel ablative methods in locally advanced pancreatic cancer. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Mar 7;20(9):2267-2278. R


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