We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Photothermal Therapy?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated Feb 11, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Photothermal therapy (PTT) is an alternative cancer treatment that uses electromagnetic radiation to kill malignant tumors. There are three kinds of PTT: traditional, plasmonic photothermal therapy (PPTT) and photodynamic therapy. Tradition PTT uses radiation, along with dyes capable of absorbing radiation at the site of the tumor. Plasmonic photothermal therapy relies on infrared or near-infrared light and electron clouds. Photodynamic therapy employs free radicals and radiation with photosensitizers, which are drugs that make the skin more permeable to X-rays.

During photothermal therapy, lasers with wavelengths ranging in length from 650 nm to 980 nm are directed at tumors for several minutes, generally not more than six, obliterating them with localized heat. For all forms of PTT for cancer, there is danger that normal tissue surrounding the tumor may absorb heat from radiation and become damaged. Still, cancer patients are attracted to this photomedicine because it does not require invasive surgery. It is often used to treat breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Certain forms of photothermal therapy have distinct benefits and detriments. One detriment associated with PTT is photobleaching, or a lightening of skin over the area where the tumor is buried, caused by the laser beams used to direct radiation. Two drawbacks are linked PPTT. Plasmonic photothermal therapy cannot penetrate enough to treat deeply buried tumors and it requires the use of photosensitivity drugs that remain inside the body for long periods, causing the skin to be easily burned by light. Photodynamic therapy can reportedly treat deep tumors without bleaching the skin and loading the body with photosensitizers.

Some methods of photothermal therapy use nanotechnology to make the electromagnetic radiation more effective. Nanoshells, minuscule particles with metallic coverings, can intensely absorb radiation. Once inserted into the cancer tumors, nanoshells increase the likelihood that the cells will be ablated by radiation. Some studies suggest phototherapy with nanoshells can be up to 90 percent effective in aiding cancer remission.

To ensure radiation is directed to the right locations and to monitor temperatures of treated body tissues, imaging tools are used to see inside the body during therapy with photomedicine. Such tools include ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create internal pictures. Another tool is photoacoustic imaging, which uses both light waves and sound waves to create an image. The latter can help doctors see how hot cancer tumors and surrounding tissue become during photothermal therapy; this cautionary monitoring can prevent destruction of healthy tissue and verify cancer cells have actually died after being irradiated.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.