Published on April 03, 2019

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

One morning last May, Joliet resident Salvatore Fisher had the startling and terrifying realization that he had lost his ability to swallow – even water. When home remedies failed, he rushed to the Silver Cross Hospital emergency department. 

salvatore fisher

Doctors there ordered tests, which revealed esophageal cancer, a form of cancer that occurs in the esophagus, the long, hollow tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. The esophagus helps move food from the back of the throat to the stomach to 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 each year, with the vast 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, to discuss his options.

Dr. Ayub informed Fisher that although surgery wasn’t an option, he was a great candidate for an endoscopic procedure known as photodynamic therapy (PDT), which could be used to cure his cancer. 

For the procedure, the patient is given a photosensitizing drug that is activated with the use of a laser that emits non-thermal light, allowing the physician to target cancer cells in the esophagus. In some cases, the procedure may need to be repeated in order to get rid of 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 of cancer, 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 given to the patient 40 to 50 hours before the procedure, and the procedure itself is performed in an outpatient setting, allowing the patient to return home that same day. 

Fisher underwent PDT in November, and Dr. Ayub said that Fisher’s most recent endoscopy revealed no remaining evidence of esophageal 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 the field of 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 tumors and other diseases. 

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.