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Photodynamic Therapy & Breast Cancer Metastasis in the Spine

Posted Jan 18 2010 12:00am
As breast cancer develops, breast cancer cells can break off from the main tumor, enter the circulatory system and spread throughout the body.  One common site of this breast cancer metastasis is the spine, which can result in structural damage of the spine.  Current therapy for breast cancer that has spread to the spine is generally a combination of chemotherapy, bisphosphonates, and some form of local therapy (radiation, surgery, etc.) at the site of metastatic tumor.

A new breast cancer study in mice explored the effect of combining bisphosphonate treatment with photodynamic therapy for breast cancer that had spread to the spine.  In this study, breast cancer researchers injected human breast cancer cells into mice.  After 7 days, the mice either received treatment with bisphosphonates or no treatment.  On day 14 of the study, all the mice received a single treatment with photodynamic therapy.  The results of this study showed that photodynamic therapy reduced spinal bone loss and resulted in tumor death.  The co-treatment with photodynamic therapy + bisphosphonates improved bone structure and strength even more.

This is fascinating research with future implications for the treatment of breast cancer that spreads to the spine.  Photodynamic therapy is a unique form of therapy that has been successfully used for esophogeal cancer and skin cancer.  Photodynamic therapy entails the injection of a drug that sensitizes cells to light.  This drug, a photosensitizing agent, is absorbed by all cells of the body, but remains in cancer cells longer.  When most of this drug has left the other cells of the body, but is still present in the cancer cells, the tumor is exposed to a specific wavelength of light.  This light causes the drug to produce a form of oxygen that kills the cancer cells with minimal damage to healthy cells.  One of the current limitations of photodynamic therapy is that the light has limited penetration through the skin, so this cancer therapy is generally limited to cancers on or just under the skin.  This new research suggests that photodynamic therapy might one day be a feasible treatment option for breast cancer that has metastasized to the spine.  However, human clinical trials will need to be conducted to confirm this therapy's effectiveness and safety.  You can learn more about photodynamic therapy at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute

The fight against breast cancer has many aspects with advancements in breast cancer therapy being an important one.  Breast cancer prevention is another aspect of the fight against breast cancer.  Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer ( to find out more about what you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk.
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