Early-stage cervical cancer could soon be treated by a novel system that uses an LED light source to activate an applied drug ointment.
Based on the emerging field of photodynamic therapy (PDT), the new system is able to specifically target the rogue cells that can lead to aggressive cancers – whilst at the same time preserving healthy tissue.
‘The light acts like a switch for the reaction that eventually removes the diseased tissue. We work very closely with the LED manufacturers to ensure we get very specific light sources in terms of the intensity and wavelength,’ said Euan Morrisson, head of advanced optical and lighting technologies at Sagentia, one of the partners.
The current clinical approach for women with early stage cervical cancer is either continued surveillance – since some lesions at this stage naturally regress by themselves – or pre-emptive treatment based on surgery, laser cauterization, or freezing.
The first approach can cause continued anxiety for patients, while the second approach can lead to post-surgical infections and even reduced fertility.
The Cervira system, which is the result of a collaboration between Sagentia and Photocure, hopes to circumvent these issues.
First the device is fitted against the cervix by a gynaecologist or colposcopist. A cup section at the end of the device is used to hold the drug ointment against the cervix for an initial absorption period. The LED light source integrated into the cup is automatically activated after a few hours of drug application and delivers the required dose of illumination at the correct wavelength.
The device can be left in place on the cervix up to 24 hours, during which time the patient is able to leave the hospital and continue daily activities, before removing and disposing of the device themselves.
‘We did a lot of work in the early stage of the project in terms of getting the form and fit factor right on the device, obviously because of where it goes, and the indications are that it can be worn with no discomfort to the patients,’ Morrisson said.
Although several countries have now rolled-out large-scale cervical cancer vaccine programmes, Morrisson says it will take some time before they become effective across the population, during which time Cevira could be saving lives.
Cervira is currently in Phase II clincial trials in multiple centers across the US and Europe.