Treating Mesothelioma with Photofrin

By Peter DePaolis

Photofrin is a photodynamic therapy (PDT) drug first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995 for the treatment of esophageal cancer, and later approved in 1998 for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer. Most recently, Photofrin received Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) from the FDA as an adjuvant therapy for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Pinnacle Biologics applied for ODD status last October and announced its approval in December. The FDA’s Orphan Drug Designation is available for medications used in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the United States.

Photodynamic therapy is a two-part process. The first stage involves an intravenous injection of Photofrin (porfimer sodium). The second stage occurs 40 to 50 hours later, when non-burning laser light is delivered to the tumor site. Photofrin is attracted to and lingers in certain types of cells, especially cancerous ones, and the laser light triggers a biochemical reaction that results in tumor destruction. Researchers hope Photofrin will improve the quality of life and survival rate for patients with mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that often necessitates partial or complete removal of a patient’s lung.

According to Dr. Joseph S. Friedberg, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center: “In studies completed at Penn, photodynamic therapy . . . in conjunction with surgery, has shown some very promising results for the treatment of mesothelioma. . .  By utilizing PDT as an intraoperative treatment, we have been able to develop a technique where we can reliably preserve the patient’s lung. When compared to other treatments, this combination of lung-sparing surgery, PDT and standard chemotherapy appears to have a positive impact on both survival and quality of life.”

Mesothelioma, also known as asbestos cancer, kills an estimated 2,500-3,000 Americans each year. The most common cause of this deadly disease is exposure to asbestos, a group of toxic mineral fibers once widely used in the construction, shipbuilding and aviation industries. Victims of asbestos exposure who develop an asbestos disease may be entitled to compensation.

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, contact a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney today. A Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer will help you understand your legal rights and will fight to hold negligent parties accountable for exposing you to asbestos.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.