Light in Cancer Treatment. Chemotherapy and Photodynamic Therapy


Cancer is amongst the most prevalent diseases in the world, affecting millions of people. This health condition is linked to debilitating symptoms and a problematic treatment regimen that results in a variety of inconveniences and a lower quality of life (El-Hussein et al. 149). Chemotherapy has been the most common treatment, despite the fact that it has a variety of side effects and may be ineffective due to cancer cell resistance. The need for effective treatment with minimal side effects and lower cost has been the topic of research for many years. Light therapy is a cutting-edge technique that was developed as a reinforcement to current cancer treatment methods to improve the efficacy of medications (Chen and Zhao 21021). This report highlights the recent developments in the use of light in cancer care, as well as its potential for future application.

Background Information

From antiquity to the present, light has been used as a treatment in medicine and surgery. Phototherapy originated in ancient Greece, Egypt, and India but was lost to Western civilization for several centuries before being rediscovered at the turn of the twentieth century. Light has been used to administer medicine to infected cells, improve the efficacy of the medications, and reduce chemotherapy side effects. Light was first used to treat vitiligo in Egypt 4,000 years ago, according to Shi and Sadler (871). Photodynamic therapy, or the use of light to treat cancer, first became popular in the 1970s. The genesis of photodynamic therapy can be traced from the discovery of haematoporphyrin’s tumor-localizing capacity, as well as its phototoxic effect on tumor cells, which led to the development of a promising new cancer treatment option. One of the most significant advantages of this procedure is its low invasiveness and high efficacy.

Working Mechanism

The photosensitizing agent is administered into the body’s bloodstream via a vein or applied to the skin, depending on the concerned body part. The medication is taken by the target cancer cells over time. The region to be treated is then exposed to light. The light facilitates the drug’s reaction, leading to the development of a unique type of oxygen molecule capable of destroying the cells (Shi and Sadler 872). Light therapy can also aid in the treatment of cancer by disrupting the specific blood vessels connected to the cancer cells and signalling the immune system to fight cancer.

The drug-to-light interval is the time between drug administration and light introduction into the body. Depending on the medication used, it can take anything from a few hours to a few days. The light applied in photodynamic therapy (PDT) is derived from lasers or various types of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The type of light administered is determined by the type and nature of cancer and the specific location inside the body. PDT is typically performed as an outpatient treatment, eliminating the need for hospital admission, although it is often paired with surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and some anti-cancer medications or radiation therapy.

Benefits and Limitations of Light Therapy

Light therapy has been termed as a great breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. Photodynamic therapy can reduce cancer cells’ drug resistance in addition to delivering anti-cancer medication (El-Hussein et al. 149). This enhances the efficacy of drugs and quickens the destruction of cancer cells. Researchers have found PDT to be less invasive compared to surgery, making it a safe alternative since the side effects associated with surgery are eliminated (Johnson et al. 214). Additionally, light can be used to reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy. Light therapy is now being considered as a possible alternative to opioids in the treatment of some cancers.

Long-term effects are the main concern when it comes to cancer treatment. Light therapy has shown no negative effects in the short and long terms. In addition to cost-effectiveness, light therapy can be used repetitively with no negative impacts. It works much faster than other treatments due to the precise application. Light therapy enables doctors to directly target the cancer cells, enhancing fast action (Muniyandi et al. 4105). Lastly, unlike surgery, light therapy leaves no scars on the body.

The main limitation of light therapy is that it has a limited reach. Light cannot permeate deep through body tissues, implying that PDT is effective on parts near the skin. The second significant drawback is the sensitivity to light developed by people who have been put under light therapy, which calls for extra precautions. According to Park et al. (79), light penetration, phototoxicity when used for an extended period of time, and inadequate water solubility are huge challenges that require extensive research. Cancers that have spread to many body parts may not be effectively treated through PDT.

Recent Developments in PDT

Technological advancement has facilitated scientific research and innovation that has positively impacted the medical field. In the cancer treatment sector, researchers have continually sought better ways of eliminating cancer cells with minimal side effects to the body. Since PDT has been noted as a viable alternative to surgery and other cancer treatments, scientists have created a variety of tool combinations for optimum benefits. Doctors have been able to penetrate deep tissues using a combination of X-rays and photodynamic therapy, for example (Park et al. 88). Nanotechnology is one of the most powerful innovations for closing the holes in cancer treatment.

Recent advances have been made in the design of new photosensitizers for increased ROS processing, and also the genetic engineering of natural photosensitizers for studying pathways followed in cellular signaling. According to a new theory, PDT-induced inflammatory response can help facilitate neutrophil infiltration to carry therapeutics to deep tumor tissues (Hu et al. 7). The use of PDT in conjunction with immunotherapies has demonstrated that PDT is a viable and crucial treatment of cancer and some of the most common malignancies. Furthermore, treating bacterial infections as a way of combating antimicrobial resistance is a new field of PDT. In essence, logical design and nanomaterial developments would have a significant effect on PDT translation in cancer and various diseases.

The Future of PTD

The current analysis of recent research on the use of light in cancer care demonstrates the method’s potential. Cancer cell selectivity and the anti-tumor impacts of talaporfin sodium (TS) PTD have given insight into the next-generation innovation involving cancer cell-selective PDT (Shi and Sadler 872). Light will boost the effectiveness of a more traditional treatment like chemotherapy.

The Warburg effect has a relation to light therapy’s future in cancer treatments. It highlights the significant glycolysis rate in cancer cells in spite of the adequate oxygen availability. Precisely since cancer cells consume a lot of glucose, positron emission tomography will detect them (PET). By synthesizing key photosensitizers (PSs) composed of sugar-conjugated chlorins, a third-generation light therapy applying the Warburg effect can be administered to improve cancer immunity as well as synergistic anti-tumor effects (Park et al. 79). The anti-tumor effects of mannose-conjugated (tetrafluorophenyl) chlorin (M-chlorin) PDT, targeting cancer cells and tumor cells, are high. Sugar-conjugated PSs may be the future of next-generation cancer treatment through cell-selective PDT.

Light therapy has shown great potential in addressing some of the rarely cured cancers, such as sarcoma. Through extensive research in its application to various malignancies, scientists have found that Due to its specific molecular structures, verteporfin has the capability to be integrated into the inhibition of the upregulated Hippo pathway (shi and Sadler 872). It often activates soft tissue sarcoma and PDT therapy-mediated necrosis resulting from oxidative harm. The anti-proliferative action of verteporfin is regulated by the association and dissociation of YAP/TEAD receptors from the nucleus, which results in decreased cell proliferation, as shown in multiple in vitro studies (Johnson et al. 210). This effect could be amplified if photodynamic therapy is used to specifically cause cellular necrosis through the use of a therapeutic laser.


While the use of light therapy in cancer treatment continues advancing, there is a need to consider some aspects that may limit its efficacy. There are numerous side effects mainly associated with the skin. Since the skin remains the main route of entry, issues related to swelling and skin discoloration are the main concern (Hu et al. 9). In some rare cases, scales and blisters have been seen around the skin areas receiving treatment. In almost every case, patients have complained of pain, itching, burning, and some skin infections (Muniyandi et al. 4109). Lastly, there is a need to research mitigating factors for the skin sensitivity developed after PDT.

As patients take several weeks to recover from light sensitivity, it may be crucial to reduce this effect to facilitate engagement in socio-economic activities. Researchers should draw from previous research, analyze gaps in the literature, and carefully predict the future of PDT in cancer treatment. Although light therapy has proved effective in the treatment of many malignancies, the associated side effects may limit its further application. Recently doctors have found that cancer cells quickly spread to other body parts, which are buried deep in the skin (park et al. 82). Further developments are crucial to facilitate the penetration of light and medication to deep body tissues.

Despite the fact that some research on the treatment of some cancers and malignancies has been extensively done, it could be useful to learn more about specific treatment options for different cancer types. It’s likely that different organs and types of tissue would respond differently to light therapy, affecting the treatment’s efficacy. It’s also important to pay attention to the reactions of various patient groups. Age, gender, and ethnicity may all be considered since these are the factors with a significant impact on treatment (Muniyandi et al. 4106). There’s a good chance that light will affect children and the elderly differently. Specific will also increase the chances of recovery and limit the side effects.

The use of light as an opioid substitute deserves special consideration, particularly in light of the ongoing war on drugs, which is still going on in various forms. The abuse of prescribed opioids is a serious problem that needs to be tackled, and light therapy can be a viable option (Hu et al. 12). The wold has grappled with cancer for many years especially due to some drug-resistance cancers. This coupled with the abuse of opioids and the high cost of surgery has made recovery difficult. The goal of PDT in the future should be limiting the spread of cancer while mitigating the negative consequences from the treatment options.


In conclusion, light therapy is gaining popularity due to its efficacy. Although it started as a treatment for vitiligo and other minor malignancies, its application has advanced to other skin cancers with potential for lung cancer treatment. Cancer is one of the most prevalent illnesses affecting multiple parts of the body. The main challenge to cancer treatment has been the rapid spread of cancer cells to body tissues located deep under the skin where light cannot permeate. Technological advancements have improved its effectiveness and made this form of treatment more accessible to a wider range of patients. While there are some drawbacks to light therapy, it is still being studied and developed, so the use of light in cancer care has a bright future.

People may achieve excellent results and develop cancer treatment options that are both effective and painless. Skin sensitivity is the main concern in terms of PDT side effects. Ongoing research will probably develop new techniques of administering medication through light therapy while minimizing the effect on the skin. The development of cancer research centers and global partnerships will facilitate the development of future PDTs that will not only eliminate cancer but also offer a solution to some of the world’s greatest challenges of opioid abuse. The recent advancements have shed light on what can be the global solution to lung cancer, skin cancer, and other critical illnesses such as sarcoma that has evaded many treatment options.

Works Cited

Chen, Hongzhong, and Yanli Zhao. “Applications of Light-Responsive Systems for Cancer Theranostics.” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, vol. 10, no. 25, 2018, pp. 21021-21034.

El-Hussein, Ahmed, et al. “A Review of Chemotherapy and Photodynamic Therapy for Lung Cancer Treatment.” Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 21, no. 2, 2020, pp. 149-161.

Hu, Jing-Jing, et al. “Recent Advances in Photonanomedicines for Enhanced Cancer Photodynamic Therapy.” Progress in Materials Science, vol. 114, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-14.

Johnson, Jillian A., et al. “Bright Light Therapy Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Cancer Survivorship, vol. 12, no. 2, 2017, pp. 206-215.

Muniyandi, Kasipandi, et al. “Role of Photoactive Phytocompounds in Photodynamic Therapy of Cancer.” Molecules, vol. 25, no. 18, 2020, pp. 4102-4122.

Park, Wooram, et al. “Advanced Smart-Photosensitizers for More Effective Cancer Treatment.” Biomaterials Science, vol. 6, no. 1, 2018, pp. 79-90.

Shi, Huayun, and Peter J. Sadler. “How Promising Is Phototherapy for Cancer?” British Journal of Cancer, vol. 123, no. 6, 2020, pp. 871-873.

Find out your order's cost