Photodynamic therapy for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck: narrative review focusing on photosensitizers

Ana Melissa Ccopa Ibarra, Rebeca Boltes Cecatto, Lara Jansiski Motta, Adriana Lino dos Santos Franco, Daniela de Fátima Teixeira da Silva, Fabio Daumas Nunes, Michael R. Hamblin, Maria Fernanda Setúbal Destro Rodrigues

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This narrative review aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of PDT in early or advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Scopus, MEDLINE/PubMed, and Embase were searched electronically following the PRISMA protocol. Quality assessment was performed according to JBI, NIH, and AMSTAR protocols. The main outcomes evaluated were treatment response, recurrence, survival, and adverse effects. A total of 49 articles met the search criteria: 43 case series, two cohort studies, two prospective before-after clinical trials, one systematic review, and one meta-analysis. Data from 2121 SCCHN patients were included. The response to PDT was variable according to the type of photosensitizer, tumor location, and tumor stage. In general, higher complete responses rated were observed in T1/T2 SCCHN, mainly with mTHPC-mediated PDT. With regard to T3/T4 or advanced SCCHN tumors, there is no compelling evidence suggesting the effectiveness of PDT. Any adverse effects reported were well tolerated by patients. The present review suggests that PDT is a promising treatment modality for early-stage SCCHN. Although there are limitations due to the low level of evidence of the included studies, we believe that the present review could help to design robust clinical trials to determine the efficacy of PDT in SCCHN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1470
Number of pages30
JournalLasers in Medical Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Oral cancer
  • Photodynamic therapy, Tumor response
  • Photosensitizer
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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