Illinois-based Pinnacle Biologics have announced they are applying for orphan drug status for their product Photofrin® (porfimer sodium), which they believe will prove to be a successful adjuvant to surgery for individuals suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma.
According to the company, the drug is used in photodynamic therapy (PDT), a treatment procedure that has shown some success in treating mesothelioma patients. A two-stage process, PDT is accomplished by first injecting the Photofrin intravenously into the patient. About 40-50 hours later, patients are exposed to a non-burning laser light in the area of the tumor. The Photofrin is attracted to cancer cells and lingers in them. The light causes a biochemical reaction to occur in the cancer cells where the Photofrin remains, thus killing the cells.
Dr. Joseph S. Friedberg of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, has been experimenting with photodynamic therapy.
Friedberg said: “In studies completed at Penn, photodynamic therapy (PDT), in conjunction with surgery, has shown some very promising results for the treatment of mesothelioma. By utilizing PDT as an intraoperative treatment, we have been able to develop a technique where we can reliably preserve the patient’s lung. When compared to other treatments, this combination of lung-sparing surgery, PDT and standard chemotherapy appears to have a positive impact on both survival and quality of life. Based upon our clinical observations, characterizing the PDT effect and working on techniques to magnify it has become a major focus of our research.”