06:11pm Tuesday 12 December 2017

Laser-activated cancer-fighting drug trial at MCW

Harry T. Whelan, MD, the Bleser Professor of Neurologyand Pediatrics and Hyperbaric Medicine at MCW and an investigator at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute, is the lead investigator for the study.

The therapy consists of a two-step treatment process in which Photofrin, a photosensitizing drug, is injected into the blood stream and accumulates in cancer cells. Next, a laser light activates the drug, which then directly attacks cancer cells. Additionally, the laser light itself damages the blood vessels feeding the tumor.

“Patients with high-grade gliomas in particular have a very poor prognosis,” said Dr. Whelan.  “Photodynamic therapy with Photofrin has the potential to add to the multi-modal approach of surgery and chemotherapy by providing another treatment option for patients with rare cancers for which there is no clear standard of care.”

The MCW study will evaluate the effect of Photofrin on 30 glioma brain tumor patients. Everyone in the study will receive Photofrin (porfimer sodium) for injection and be treated with red light emitted by a red laser. The light will be sent from the laser to the surface of the brain where the tumor is located using a light transmitting fiber. The fiber will have a tiny knob at the end that spreads the light out evenly in all directions.

Previous studies have shown that patients with malignant brain tumors called gliomas had a good response to PDT. The patients in these studies lived longer than they were expected to live. In one study of adults with brain tumors in Australia, patients given PDT had greatly improved survival rates. Fifty seven percent (57%) of the patients with gliomas called anaplastic astrocytoma survived for 36 months. Thirty seven percent (37%) of the patients with gliomas called glioblastoma multiforme survived for 36 months.

Dr. Whelan also is conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial of PDT with Photofrin in children and adolescents, from newborn to 18 years old, who have recurrent or progressive brain tumors. The trial is being conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute and MCW, one of the few centers in the United States with experience utilizing PDT technology for the treatment of brain tumors.

Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(414) 955-8296


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