Researchers at Roswell Park looking into new treatment for lung cancer

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute are looking into a new way to treat early stage lung cancer. It’s called photodynamic therapy, or “PDT.” It was developed at Roswell Park in the 1970’s, but now doctors are trying to use it in a new way.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women. Researchers at Roswell Park hope a clinical trial can pave the way for improving the outcome for some patients.

George Grace, 65, said he always knew there was a chance he developed lung cancer. He started smoking at a young age.

“It was a habit I wish I had never started 50 years earlier,” Grace, from Western New York said.

He wasn’t necessarily surprised when a doctor diagnosed him with lung cancer about a year ago. He was even familiar with a form of treatment brought up by his doctor.

“I said, ‘photodynamic therapy!’ He was kind of surprised, but I had read about it a couple years ago,” Grace said.

Dr. Chumy Nwogu is running a clinical trial at Roswell Park for treating early stage lung cancer with PDT. He decided George would be a good fit for it. He’s now one of seven patients a part of it so far.

“We’re always looking to add newer approaches to lung cancer treatments,” Dr. Nwogu said.

PDT has been around for years, but Dr. Nwogu said it’s never been used this way.

“[We’re] using the PDT for patients to improve the outcome after surgery.

Dr. Nwogu said they’re using it in combination with surgery. Doctors remove the tumor, then use PDT to kill any potential cancer cells left behind. Doctors use a red laser light, which activates a drug called Photofrin, which kills cancer cells.

“The chemical gets concentrated in the cancer cells more so than the normal cells,” Dr. Nwogu said.

“I wasn’t afraid or nervous. I thought I’m in good hands,” Grace said.

George’s procedure went well. He was told to stay out of sunlight and protect his skin for 15 days because of light sensitivity. George said a scan 6 months later showed no signs the cancer had spread.

”He tolerated the procedure well and had the PDT done. We’re very pleased with how he’s doing.”

While George’s case has been successful so far, Dr. Nwogu said it’s too early to tell how successful it will be for all patients. They’ll monitor patients for two years.

Still, George is enjoying life and spending time with his wife, Donna. It’s those moments he said he may not have had without the treatment.

“I’m very grateful to Roswell. I’m grateful to the pioneers of this research,” Grace said.

The trial is only going on at Roswell Park Cancer Institute right now. Researchers are still looking for a few more patients for this phase of the trial. From there, they’ll analyze data and open it up to other institutions. It could take anywhere from two to five years to become part of the standard of care if successful.

To inquire about photodynamic therapy or about these studies, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or e-mail provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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