Laser applications in health care have jumped leaps and bounds, with ongoing studies and testing, the possibilities for the future of lasers in the OR are endless. One such recent study of trials posted in The Lancelot Oncology has shown that a new technique called Vascular Targeted Photodynamic Therapy (VTP) successfully destroys prostate cancer tumors without destroying healthy tissue. The theory of using lasers to destroy cancer has been around for many years without much success.

This treatment involves injection of a photo sensitive drug into the bloodstream which is then activated by lasers.  The drug tested, WST11, is derived from bacteria that live at the bottom of the ocean which efficiently converts light into energy.  This new treatment can kill the early-stage prostate cancer without damaging or removing the prostate and healthy tissue, unlike surgery and irradiation which may also cause long-term erectile issues and incontinence.

The treatment was developed by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in collaboration with the privately-owned STEBA Biotech.  The trial which was led by University College London involved 413 patients at 47 treatment sites in 10 European countries. Half of the men received VTP treatment and the other given standard care.  Two years later about half of those who received the treatment had no remaining trace of cancer, compared to 14% in the other group.

Lead investigator Professor Mark Emberton, consultant urologist at University College London hospital, said: “These results are excellent news for men with early localized prostate cancer, offering a treatment that can kill cancer without removing or destroying the prostate.

“This is truly a huge leap forward for prostate cancer treatment, which has previously lagged decades behind other solid cancers such as breast cancer.

“In 1975, almost everyone with breast cancer was given a radical mastectomy, but since then treatments have steadily improved and we now rarely need to remove the whole breast.

“In prostate cancer, we are still commonly removing or irradiating the whole prostate, so the success of this new tissue-preserving treatment is welcome news indeed.”

The benefits of the new therapy may not stop at prostates, however. Emberton expressed hope that it would be useful in killing other types of cancer as well. “The treatment was developed for prostate cancer because of the urgent need for new therapies, but it should be translatable to other solid cancers including breast and liver cancer,” he said.

It may be years before the treatment becomes readily available to patients, as it is still under review with the European Medicines Agency for possible license, but the outlook for lasers to be an effective choice in the fight against cancer is positive.



Emberton M, Azzouzi A, Vincendeau S, et al. Padeliporfin vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy versus active surveillance in men with low-risk prostate cancer (CLIN1001 PCM301): an open-label, phase 3, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Oncology. 2016.

The Guardian