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J Photochem Photobiol B. 2000 Aug;57(1):1-13.

Signaling pathways in cell death and survival after photodynamic therapy.

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Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02114, USA.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a cytotoxic treatment, which can induce cells to initiate a rescue response, or to undergo cell death, either apoptosis or necrosis. The many signaling pathways involved in these processes are the topic of this review. The subcellular localization of the photosensitizer has been shown to be a key factor in the outcome of PDT. Mitochondrial localized photosensitizers are able to induce apoptosis very rapidly. Lysosomal localized photosensitizers can elicit either a necrotic or an apoptotic response. In the plasma membrane, a target for various photosensitizers, rescue responses, apoptosis and necrosis is initiated. Several protein phosphorylation cascades are involved in the regulation of the response to PDT. Finally, a number of stress-induced proteins play a role in the rescue response after PDT. Notably, the induction of apoptosis by PDT might not be crucial for an optimal outcome. Recent studies indicate that abrogation of the apoptotic pathway does alter the clonogenic survival of the cells after PDT. Further studies, both in vitro and especially in vivo could lead to more efficient combination therapies in which signaling pathways, involved in cell death or rescue, are either up- or downregulated before PDT.

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