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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007 Nov 1;224(3):290-9. Epub 2007 Feb 15.

Photodynamic therapy with the phthalocyanine photosensitizer Pc 4: the case experience with preclinical mechanistic and early clinical-translational studies.

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Department of Dermatology, Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is emerging as a promising non-invasive treatment for cancers. PDT involves either local or systemic administration of a photosensitizing drug, which preferentially localizes within the tumor, followed by illumination of the involved organ with light, usually from a laser source. Here, we provide a selective overview of our experience with PDT at Case Western Reserve University, specifically with the silicon phthalocyanine photosensitizer Pc 4. We first review our in vitro studies evaluating the mechanism of cell killing by Pc 4-PDT. Then we briefly describe our clinical experience in a Phase I trial of Pc 4-PDT and our preliminary translational studies evaluating the mechanisms behind tumor responses. Preclinical work identified (a) cardiolipin and the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL as targets of Pc 4-PDT, (b) the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis, with the key participation of caspase-3, as a central response of many human cancer cells to Pc 4-PDT, (c) signaling pathways that could modify apoptosis, and (d) a formulation by which Pc 4 could be applied topically to human skin and penetrate at least through the basal layer of the epidermis. Clinical-translational studies enabled us to develop an immunohistochemical assay for caspase-3 activation, using biopsies from patients treated with topical Pc 4 in a Phase I PDT trial for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Results suggest that this assay may be used as an early biomarker of clinical response.

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