Major advances have recently been made in photodynamic therapy (PDT) for clinical application, including the development of more powerful photosensitizers and light sources and suitable light applicators. PDT is emerging as an attractive new form of cancer therapy, suitable for treating superficial lesions (less than I cm in depth) and carcinoma in situ, or as an adjuvant to surgery for more bulky disease. PDT is therefore complementary to radiotherapy which is better suited to treating larger tumours. There are some qualitative similarities between light distribution in tissue during superficial illumination and ionizing radiation dose distributions during external beam irradiation, or between interstitial PDT and brachytherapy, although the geometric scale is very different (visible light penetrates a maximum of 5-10 mm in tissue). The contribution of scattered light to tissue irradiance is much greater than for ionizing radiation and in situ light dosimetry is very important (although rather complicated) to ensure adequate illumination without over-treating. Dosimetry and treatment planning are highly advanced for ionizing radiation and are routine in all radiotherapy departments. Proper in situ light dosimetry and dose distribution calculation for PDT is in its infancy. Physicists have an important role to play in the further optimization of clinical PDT and much of the infrastructure and expertise present in the radiotherapy department is ideally suited to accommodate PDT. In this review, parallels and contrasts are made between PDT and ionizing radiation for both mechanistic and dosimetric aspects of the therapies. A summary of the most interesting clinical applications is also given.

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Radiotherapy & Oncology
Department of Radiation Oncology

Stewart, F.A, Baas, P, & Star, W.M. (1998). What does photodynamic therapy have to offer radiation oncologists (or their cancer patients)?. Radiotherapy & Oncology (Vol. 48, pp. 233–248). doi:10.1016/S0167-8140(98)00063-2