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HealthWatch: Laser Treatment For Prostate Cancer

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with almost 200,000 cases each year. It's also the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in men.

Now, though, a new treatment for prostate cancer is being put to the test, and it uses lasers and lights to try to zap cancer in its tracks.

Bill Pupplo was diagnosed with prostate cancer four months ago.

"I had a high PSA," Pupplo said. "I went to a urologist and did a biopsy, and they found out that I had cancer."

Pupplo was going to take a wait-and-see approach since his cancer was caught very early. Then doctors at NYU Langone Medical Center told him about an experimental treatment that targets the cancer cells without destroying the prostate.

"The real appeal of an approach like this is that it's non-invasive," NYU Langone's Dr. Samir Taneja said.

Thin, fiber-optic needles are positioned over the prostate, where cancer cells are identified. The patient is then given an IV drug that's activated by light. After about ten minutes, the lasers are turned on, shining light on the prostate through the fiber optics.

"Wherever the light meets the drug, blood vessels are destroyed, and hopefully the prostate cancer in that location is destroyed as well," Dr. Taneja said.

A big benefit of the procedure is that it may destroy cancer without causing serious side effects. That could mean the treatment causes no sexual, urinary, or reproductive problems, which traditional treatments can often lead to.

"Standard therapies for prostate cancer are, right now, surgery, radiation, [and] in some cases freezing the prostate, but they all aim to destroy the entire gland," Dr. Taneja said.

Pupplo will have another biopsy and an MRI in six months to see if he's cancer-free.

"At least now, I've done something that may work, so I have something to hope for," Pupplo said.

The procedure is not yet considered an alternative to surgery and radiation for more advanced or aggressive cancer, but doctors are hopeful that it may become one.

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