Purpose: Photodynamic therapy combines a photosensitizer, such as porfimer sodium (Photofrin), with red laser light (630 nm.) to destroy cancer cells. Investigators have reported the effectiveness of photodynamic therapy in the treatment of patients with recurrent superficial bladder cancer. We assess the safety and efficacy of 1 or 2 photodynamic treatments using porfimer sodium and controlled uniform laser light (630 nm.) as an alternative to cystectomy in patients with refractory vesical carcinoma in situ of the bladder.
Materials and methods: A total of 36 patients with carcinoma in situ were treated with whole bladder photodynamic therapy as an alternative to cystectomy. In all patients at least 1 course of bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) had failed. Each patient received a single whole bladder photodynamic therapy treatment, consisting of 2 mg./kg. porfimer sodium intravenously followed 40 to 50 hours later by intravesical red light (630 nm.) at 15 J./cm.2. Post-photodynamic therapy evaluations included weekly telephone contact to assess acute adverse reactions, and assessment of efficacy and bladder toxicity at 3 months and quarterly thereafter.
Results: At initial clinical evaluation at 3 months 58% of the patients had a complete response as indicated by negative cystoscopy, bladder biopsy and urine cytology but in 42% treatment failed. At a mean followup of 12 months (range 9 to 48) 10 of the 21 complete responders had recurrence for an overall durable response rate of 31%. Fourteen patients subsequently underwent cystectomy for persistent carcinoma in situ (12) and carcinoma in situ recurrence (2). Of the 36 patients 7 experienced bladder contracture.
Conclusions: The initial results are encouraging for a single whole bladder photodynamic treatment of patients in whom prior intravesical therapy for carcinoma in situ has failed. While followup is short, porfimer sodium photodynamic therapy appears potentially promising as an alternative to cystectomy in patients with refractory carcinoma in situ.