Photodynamic, or light, therapy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December 1998. The FDA has also approved using lasers for treatment of advanced stages of cancer of the esophagus. A surgeon can use lasers to shrink a tumor blocking an esophagus in about 15 minutes, as opposed to a five-hour operation to remove it by surgery. The light treatment saves the esophagus and eliminates a need for tube feeding. “The purpose of photodynamic therapy is not to cure anyone,” says surgeon Ralph Bueno, who is an instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School. “The majority of our patients are incurable. Their tumors cannot be reached by surgery, or treated successfully with radiation or chemotherapy. What we want to do is to help them become as functional and independent as possible for as long as possible.” Bueno believes that such increases of functional life can be turned into opportunities for more curative treatments.