Early Research Shows Low-Dose Light Therapy May Aid in Treating Skin Damage From Radiation Therapy

Get Permission

Light therapy may accelerate the healing of skin damage from radiation therapy by up to 50%, according to a recent study published by Mosca et al in Photonics. The preclinical research found that photobiomodulation—a form of low-dose light therapy—lowered the severity of skin damage from radionecrosis, reduced inflammation, improved blood flow, and helped wounds heal up to 19 days faster.

The findings follow prior reports on the effectiveness of light therapy in improving the healing of burn wounds and in relieving pain from oral mucositis caused by radiation and chemotherapy.

“To our knowledge, this is the first report on the successful use of photobiomodulation therapy for brachytherapy,” said senior author Praveen Arany, DDS, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oral Biology in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. “The results from this study support the progression to controlled human clinical studies to utilize this innovative therapy in managing the side effects from radiation cancer treatments.”

Although brachytherapy has improved the precision and safety of cancer care, skin damage is still an unfortunate side effect of the technique. Similar to burn wounds, radionecrosis may cause inflammation and scarring and hinder blood flow. Current treatments to manage radionecrosis include routine wound care, pain medication, and, in some cases, surgery.

Previous research conducted by Dr. Arany’s lab found that photobiomodulation promotes healing by activating TGF‐beta 1, a protein that controls cell growth and division by stimulating various cells involved in healing, including fibroblasts and macrophages.

The new study, completed in an animal model, examined the effectiveness of both near-infrared and red LED light at improving the healing of skin damage during radiation therapy.

Without photobiomodulation, wounds took an average of 61 days to heal. Using near-infrared light therapy, healing occurred within an average of 49 days. Healing occurred the fastest when using red light therapy, at an average of 42 days.

“For over 40 years, photobiomodulation has been known to accelerate the healing of acute and chronic wounds, triggering cellular processes that control inflammation, pain signaling, and tissue regeneration and repair,” said first author Rodrigo Mosca, PhD, visiting fellow from the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Research suggests that the effects of photobiomodulation do not extend to tumor cells, likely due to their perturbed metabolic and regulatory signaling, added Dr. Arany.

The study authors concluded, “The results from this study support future mechanistic lab studies and controlled human clinical studies to utilize this innovative therapy in managing side effects from radiation cancer treatments.”

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.