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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Apr 15;13(8):2463-70.

The tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib mesylate enhances the efficacy of photodynamic therapy by inhibiting ABCG2.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York 14263, USA.



The ATP-binding cassette protein ABCG2 (breast cancer resistance protein) effluxes some of the photosensitizers used in photodynamic therapy (PDT) and, thus, may confer resistance to this treatment modality. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) can block the function of ABCG2. Therefore, we tested the effects of the TKI imatinib mesylate (Gleevec) on photosensitizer accumulation and in vitro and in vivo PDT efficacy.


Energy-dependent photosensitizer efflux and imatinib mesylate's effects on intracellular accumulation of clinically used second- and first-generation photosensitizers were studied by flow cytometry in murine and human cells with and without ABCG2 expression. Effects of ABCG2 inhibition on PDT were examined in vitro using cell viability assays and in vivo measuring photosensitizer accumulation and time to regrowth in a RIF-1 tumor model.


Energy-dependent efflux of 2-(1-hexyloxethyl)-2-devinyl pyropheophorbide-a (HPPH, Photochlor), endogenous protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) synthesized from 5-aminolevulenic acid, and the benzoporphyrin derivative monoacid ring A (BPD-MA, Verteporfin) was shown in ABCG2+ cell lines, but the first-generation multimeric photosensitizer porfimer sodium (Photofrin) and a novel derivative of HPPH conjugated to galactose were minimally transported. Imatinib mesylate increased accumulation of HPPH, PpIX, and BPD-MA from 1.3- to 6-fold in ABCG2+ cells, but not in ABCG2- cells, and enhanced PDT efficacy both in vitro and in vivo.


Second-generation clinical photosensitizers are transported out of cells by ABCG2, and this effect can be abrogated by coadministration of imatinib mesylate. By increasing intracellular photosensitizer levels in ABCG2+ tumors, imatinib mesylate or other ABCG2 transport inhibitors may enhance efficacy and selectivity of clinical PDT.

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