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Silver Cross was 1st to Offer Photodynamic Therapy for Cancer of the Esophagus


One morning last May, Joliet resident Salvatore Fisher had the terrifying realization that he physically could not swallow – not even water. He immediately rushed to the Silver Cross Hospital ER.

Tests revealed a form of cancer in the esophagus – the long, hollow tube that runs from the throat to the stomach so food can be digested. Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 17,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, with the majority occurring in men. Fifty years ago, the survival rate at five years was five percent. Today, about 20 percent of patients survive five years after diagnosis.

Fisher was referred to Dr. Kamran Ayub, a board-certified gastroenterologist and Medical Director of the Advanced Endoscopy Center at Silver Cross Hospital.

Fisher was informed that he was a great candidate for an endoscopic procedure known as photodynamic therapy (PDT), which could be used to cure his cancer.

In PDT, the patient is given a photosensitizing drug that is activated by a laser that emits non-thermal light, allowing the physician to target cancer cells. In some cases, the procedure may need to be repeated in order to treat all affected areas.

“This type of procedure works really well in patients with early esophageal cancer who are not good candidates for surgery or endoscopic resection. In patients with obstruction and difficulty swallowing, it can alleviate the symptoms, making it easier to swallow. The unique ability of PDT to target both seen and unseen cancer cells differentiates it from other endoluminal modalities,” Dr. Ayub said.

The photosensitizing drug is administered 40 to 50 hours before the procedure, and the procedure itself is performed in an outpatient setting.

Fisher underwent PDT in November, and Dr. Ayub said that Fisher’s most recent endoscopy revealed no remaining evidence of the cancer.

“The entire process was painless,” Fisher said. “Dr. Ayub communicated everything very well with me.”

“We are excited to be the first institution in Illinois to implement PDT for esophageal cancer and provide this novel therapy for our patients. Salvatore was a great candidate for this type of procedure, and it’s great to see that he’s now cancer free,” Dr. Ayub said.

Dr. Ayub is considered an expert in endoscopic ultrasound, gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus, and advanced endoscopy/ERCP. He specializes in the management of early cancers of the esophagus and other parts of the digestive tract and offers endoscopic management for these and other diseases.

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