Cancer treatment methods are diverse, and among them is radiotherapy, which uses special rays to damage cancer cells’ DNA and eliminate them. A less common approach is photodynamic therapy in which a light-activated medicine is used to damage cancer cells’ powerhouses, ultimately destroying them. Now, there is a new technique making waves in the medical field called radiodynamic therapy (RDT).
It is a powerful blend of radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy. Usually, photodynamic therapy employs bright laser light to activate a special drug that gathers in the tumour cells. When this drug gets activated, it releases a harmful type of oxygen that kills the cancer cells. But there is a catch. This method works best on tumours near the skin’s surface or places where doctors can look inside with a tube, like an endoscope. RDT, however, targets deep-seated tumours that regular photodynamic therapy cannot reach. It uses super-strong light beams to activate the special drug.
Here is the exciting part: with RDT, doctors only need to give 20-30 percent of the usual radiotherapy dose. Plus, there is something called ‘Cherenkov radiation’, which happens during radio- therapy. This radiation gives off light that is super similar to the kind used for treatment, making it easier for the doctors to plan everything.
The special drug used in RDT does not just stay in the main tumour. It also goes into other cancer cells that have spread throughout the body. Even a tiny bit of Cherenkov light can then be used to wipe out these spread-out cells. This means RDT is transforming radiotherapy from just being a local or specific treatment into a treatment that can reach all over the body. It is a big deal for cancer treatment.
In countries like Pakistan, where medical resources are often seriously constrained, accessing advanced treatments can prove to be challenging. However, the advent of RDT holds the promise of a paradigm shift. With its precision in targeting deeply-seated tumours using minimised radiation doses and the potential for compre-hensive systemic treatment, RDT possesses the transformative ability to reshape the landscape of cancer care. This offers a ray of hope to patients, enhancing their prospects in their fight against cancer, and translating into improved health outcomes and a brighter future.
Furthermore, as the government takes numerous initiatives to elevate the field of medical physics and bolster healthcare services nationwide, we anticipate the imminent availability of RDT facilities in institutions, such as medical universities and hospitals.
One hopes that advanced medical technologies, like the RDT, will soon become an integral part of our larger healthcare landscape, reflecting the nation’s commitment to excellence in its healthcare delivery mechanism.
Dr Intikhab Ulfat