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Mol Pharm. 2013 May 6;10(5):1988-97. doi: 10.1021/mp400007k. Epub 2013 Apr 24.

A cell-targeted photodynamic nanomedicine strategy for head and neck cancers.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, 2071 Martin Luther King Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, United States.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) holds great promise for the treatment of head and neck (H&N) carcinomas where repeated loco-regional therapy often becomes necessary due to the highly aggressive and recurrent nature of the cancers. While interstitial light delivery technologies are being refined for PDT of H&N and other cancers, a parallel clinically relevant research area is the formulation of photosensitizers in nanovehicles that allow systemic administration yet preferential enhanced uptake in the tumor. This approach can render dual-selectivity of PDT, by harnessing both the drug and the light delivery within the tumor. To this end, we report on a cell-targeted nanomedicine approach for the photosensitizer silicon phthalocyanine-4 (Pc 4), by packaging it within polymeric micelles that are surface-decorated with GE11-peptides to promote enhanced cell-selective binding and receptor-mediated internalization in EGFR-overexpressing H&N cancer cells. Using fluorescence spectroscopy and confocal microscopy, we demonstrate in vitro that the EGFR-targeted Pc 4-nanoformulation undergoes faster and higher uptake in EGFR-overexpressing H&N SCC-15 cells. We further demonstrate that this enhanced Pc 4 uptake results in significant cell-killing and drastically reduced post-PDT clonogenicity. Building on this in vitro data, we demonstrate that the EGFR-targeted Pc 4-nanoformulation results in significant intratumoral drug uptake and subsequent enhanced PDT response, in vivo, in SCC-15 xenografts in mice. Altogether our results show significant promise toward a cell-targeted photodynamic nanomedicine for effective treatment of H&N carcinomas.

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