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Dartmouth researchers studying new pancreatic cancer treatment

Union Leader Correspondent

April 02. 2014 10:26PM

LEBANON — Dartmouth researchers are studying a new treatment for pancreatic cancer that would be easier, safer and more accurate.

The researchers used CT scans with contrast enhancement to measure treatment response to pancreatic cancer photodynamic therapy.

In the study, the researchers analyzed data collected in trials that were conducted in London, said Brian W. Pogue, PhD, a researcher at Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Professor at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and Geisel School of Medicine.

“It’s an interesting trial because it’s funded by United States, but is being carried out in London,” Pogue said.

The research team at Dartmouth set out to reduce the imaging obstacles presented by the treatment. The patients who were selected for the trial had inoperable pancreatic cancer.

“The treatment is thought to be less invasive than surgery,” Pogue said, but presented many obstacles.

According to the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, “Photodynamic therapy is a minimally invasive and nontoxic method of treating cancer with a drug, which, when activated by light, kills cancer cells. Cancer cells are identified using a drug called a photosensitizer. Other cells release the photosensitizer, but cancer cells hang onto the drug. When exposed to light, the cells containing the drug die. Since the response is chemically, not heat, induced, there is no damage to connective tissue.”

What the Dartmouth researchers discovered was that the treatments given were successful and treatments could be controlled by analyzing a patient’s reaction so that the light intensity could be increased or decreased for better results.

“This was an important discovery because it shows us exactly how we can control the treatment and controlling the treatment is the first step to having a successful treatment,” Pogue said.

The clinical trials in London are now stepping up to phase two in which it will be attempted to destroy not just cancer cells, but whole tumors. Phase three of the study would likely expand its locations to include Boston or Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Pogue said.

The study has been published in Physics in Medicine and Biology.

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