BACKGROUND: Because the survival after treatment of advanced inoperable endo-tracheobronchial carcinoma is so poor, a pilot study was undertaken to evaluate the combined cumulative effect on survival of neodymium yttrium aluminium garnet (Nd YAG) laser followed by photodynamic treatment used endoscopically. METHODS: Seventeen patients who presented between January 1992 and March 1996 with inoperable tracheobronchial lesions causing more than 50% endoluminal obstruction were selected to enter the pilot study. Initially they had bronchoscopic Nd YAG laser treatment to debulk the tumour, and this was followed six weeks later by photodynamic therapy to treat the residual tumour. RESULTS: All patients had symptomatic relief and at least a partial response, and seven had a complete response for 3-6 months. Eight of the 17 (47%) survived for at least two years and 11 (65%) survived for a year or more. The median survival of the 10 patients who had died by the time of writing was 18.5 months (range 5-39), 95% confidence interval (CI) 9.9 to 29.5. CONCLUSIONS: Combined Nd YAG laser and endoscopic photodynamic therapy may be an effective palliative treatment for patients with inoperable endotracheobronchial cancer.
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