Research and Science

The fight against cancer has reached a new level: For if the cancer risks are known, a specific prevention is possible. And who is educated well about his own kind of cancer can participate in treatment processes and decisions. Photodynamic Therapy could help to save even more lives.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease which causes the normal growth of body cells to get out of control. An uncontrolled division of body cells causes an accumulation of cells called tumour. A malignant tumour is diagnosed, when its growth destroys surrounding tissue or gathers in other areas of the body. A tumour which neither destroys body cells or spreads is far less dangerous and thus called benign.

What is Oncology?

Oncology is the medical discipline which deals with the prevention, diagnosis, therapy and aftercare of cancer. Oncologists are continuously searching for new treatments and have developed Photodynamic Therapy in the 1980’s.

In contrast to surgery, Photodynamic Therapy avoids traumas by offering the benefits of the minimal-invasive treatment, i.e. procedures with minimal injury of skin, muscles or organs.

In particular, the - for security reasons - spacious ectomy of healthy tissue around the malignant tumour is omitted. Photodynamic Therapy of tumours normally takes place only once, but the treatment can be repeated if needed. Because the therapy is carried out with normal light, the stress for the patients compared to “classical” treatments is relatively minor. Photodynamic Therapy still keeps the door open for other kinds of treatments. These treatments could possibly be applied in case there is no complete healing.

Through applying lasers in combination with optical fibres, tumours in the body which are reachable by endoscope can also be treated. Furthermore, larger tumours can be treated by injecting such fibres into the tissue.

If the photosensitiser is not only applied locally but systemically, one of the side effects can be an enormous sensibility against light, which can – in individual cases – endure for several weeks.

How does Photodynamic Therapy work?

A primarily non-toxic sensitizer or one of its metabolic precursors is injected either systemically (to spreading throughout the body) or locally. It gathers more or less selectively in the tumour or tissue mutation. After a certain period of time, the tumour or mutation is exposed to laser light of an appropriate wavelength. In this process, photo-physical processes produce toxic substances – mainly reactive types of oxygen – which damage the tumour or mutation if tissue.


How many people develop cancer?

In 2006, 426.800 people developed cancer in Germany. That figure, published in 2010, is based on estimations of the Society of epidemiologic cancer indexes in Germany e.V. (GEKID) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). Source:

What are incidence and mortality?

Incidence is the number of new cancer cases within a certain period of time. 426.800 people developed cancer in Germany in the year 2006. Mortality refers to the number of deaths within a certain interval. In Germany, cancer caused 210.000 deaths in 2006.

Who is Colin Hopper?

Colin Hopper is head of the dentofacial surgery department at the Eastman Dental Institute of University College in London. Since 1991, Hopper has been working for the National Medical Centre. He has managed a large number of research projects in the field of Photodynamic Therapy. The focus of his research is on squamous carcinoma of the mouth. This programme is currently one of the biggest PDT research projects worldwide and has led to the authorisation of PDT by health insurers. Dr. Hopper’s work currently gains momentum thanks to a specifically developed picture guide system. Other fields of his research comprise fluorescence diagnosis and the application of PDT for non-malignant diseases like neurofibromatosis (nerve tumours).

More info:

How many people actually develop cancer as a consequence of alcohol?

It is hard to make clear statements here. One of the reasons is that alcohol consumption is often combined with other risk factors such as smoking, imbalanced nutrition and overweight, which could in itself be a consequence of drinking behaviour.

A group of international researchers led by the German Institute of Human Nutrition (Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung, DIfE, has presented a comprehensive calculation in 2011: According to this study, wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages are co-responsible for one out of ten cancer incidents in European men and one out of 33 in European women.

In this study, the scientists evaluated data of more than 360.000 people. The 110.000 male participants of the study were from six different European countries, the 250.000 female participants from eight. Researchers compared the information given by the participants regarding their drinking habits to cancer indexes and other sources. Based on that, they calculated the cancer incidences attributable to alcohol consumption. They came to the conclusion that alcohol is particularly harmful if it is consumed in larger quantities.

Men: Referring to the calculations of the scientists, alcohol consumption was co-responsible for 32 out of 100 cancer cases in the upper intestinal tract (mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus), the intestine and the liver. More than 50% of the tumours also caused by wine, beer and spirits could be traced back to the consumption of larger quantities of alcohol.

Women: Alcohol consumption was co-responsible for 5 out of 100 cases in the upper intestinal tract, the intestine, the liver and the breast. Depending on the kind of cancer, alcohol consumption above the critical value was co-responsible in a range between almost 50% up to the vast majority of the incidents.

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What can dentists do to support the prophylaxis of head and neck cancer?

In the future, dentists will play a leading role regarding the early diagnosis of head and neck cancer. This prognosis results from dentists’ daily work.

The term head and neck cancer describes a variety of tumours in the head and neck area from the mouth and lips, pharynx, salivary glands to the larynx. And all of that is the “territory” of the dentist. (That definition of head and neck cancer excludes brain tumours and the surrounding tissue).

If dentists not only examine their patients for caries and periodontitis but regularly look for tumours, it would be an immense progress in the early diagnosis of head and neck cancer.