Photosensitizers and radiosensitizers in dermatology and oncology
The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za
Two therapeutic modalities are currently of great interest, namely photo- and radiosensitization. Whereas photosensitizers only function in combination with ultraviolet (UV) light, radiosensitizers act only in combination with ionizing radiation. Because of the small UV penetration, up to a maximum of 0,5 mm, photosensitization can take place only at the surface of the body, i.e. the skin. Photosensitizers are applied in dermatology in order to optimize and improve the UV therapy of certain diseases (mainly psoriasis, mycosis fungoides and vitiligo). Radiosensitizers lead to an increase in sensitivity of the hypoxic and therefore radioresistant parts of tumours against X- and gamma-radiation. With sufficient concentration within the tumor, they can act where the radiation can reach, even in the deeper parts of the body. They represent a modern and useful aid to radiation oncology. Because of neurotoxic effects, however, their practical use is limited. A short review of the history, mechanisms of action, application and side-effects of these photo- and radiosensitizers is presented.