JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Photodynamic therapy for recurrent respiratory papillomatosis

Anja Lieder, Muhammad K Khan, Burkard M Lippert
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014 June 5, (6): CD009810
24898010

BACKGROUND: Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is a benign condition of the mucosa of the upper aerodigestive tract. It is characterised by recurrent papillomatous lesions and is associated with human papillomavirus (HPV). Frequent recurrence and rapid papilloma growth are common and in part responsible for the onset of potentially life-threatening symptoms. Most patients afflicted by the condition will require repeated surgical treatments to maintain their airway, and these may result in scarring and voice problems. Photodynamic therapy introduces a light-sensitising agent, which is administered either orally or by injection. This substance (called a photo-sensitiser) is selectively retained in hyperplastic and neoplastic tissue, including papilloma. It is then activated by light of a specific wavelength and may be used as a sole or adjuvant treatment for RRP.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of photodynamic therapy in the management of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) in children and adults.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group Trials Register; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); PubMed; EMBASE; CINAHL; Web of Science; Cambridge Scientific Abstracts; ICTRP and additional sources for published and unpublished trials. The date of the search was 27 January 2014.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials utilising photodynamic therapy as sole or adjuvant therapy in participants of any age with proven RRP versus control intervention. Primary outcome measures were symptom improvement (respiratory distress/dyspnoea and voice quality), quality of life improvement and recurrence-free interval. Secondary outcomes included reduction in the frequency of surgical intervention, reduction in disease volume and adverse effects of treatment.  

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used the standard methodological procedures expected by The Cochrane Collaboration. Meta-analysis was not possible and results are presented descriptively.

MAIN RESULTS: We included one trial with a total of 23 participants. This study was at high risk of bias. None of our primary outcomes and only one of our secondary outcomes (reduction in volume of disease, assessed endoscopically) was measured in the study. There was no significant difference between the groups (very low-quality evidence). Adverse effects reported included airway swelling requiring intubation in a child with severe RRP a few hours after photodynamic therapy.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is insufficient evidence from high-quality randomised controlled trials to determine whether photodynamic therapy alters the course of disease or provides an added benefit to surgery in patients with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Multicentre randomised controlled trials with appropriate sample sizes and long-term follow-up are required to evaluate whether photodynamic therapy is of benefit. Outcomes such as improvement in symptoms (respiratory function and voice quality) and quality of life should be measured in future trials.

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