This substance, hexaminolevulinate, is the active substance in a new pharmaceutical product that has been developed by the Norwegian company PhotoCure ASA. The new product will be sold under the name Hexvix. Photocure ASA won approval March 2 for market release of Hexvix in 26 European countries.
Every year, nearly 200,000 cases of bladder cancer are reported in Europe and the United States. In the US alone, more than 2.5 million screenings take place every year. If caught early, the five-year survival rate from this disease is an encouraging 90%. This drops to 50% when the cancer is locally metastasized and to about 10% for distant metastasis. Catching and treating bladder cancer as quickly as possible is clearly critical for a favorable outcome.
In its early stages, bladder cancer is characterized by superficial tumors or lesions. In conventional screening, a cystoscope is used to visually examine the inside of the bladder, and suspected tumors are removed for biopsy. Upon positive diagnosis, the cystoscope is used again as a surgeon or physician visually identifies and cuts out the cancerous tissue. This "white light" examination and resection is quite difficult for flat lesions and the experience of the individual urologist or surgeon is a considerable variable factor in successful detection. The recurrence rate under this treatment is quite high, and is thought to be due in part to superficial lesions or small tumors that are overlooked during the initial screening and diagnosis.
The use of hexaminolevulinate (HAL) in detection of bladder cancer was initiated by Hubert van den Bergh,
Contact: Mary Parlange, science writer
Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne