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PLoS One. 2009 Aug 19;4(8):e6691. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006691.

Multi-modality therapeutics with potent anti-tumor effects: photochemical internalization enhances delivery of the fusion toxin scFvMEL/rGel.

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Department of Radiation Biology, Institute for Cancer Research, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.



There is a need for drug delivery systems (DDS) that can enhance cytosolic delivery of anti-cancer drugs trapped in the endo-lysosomal compartments. Exposure of cells to specific photosensitizers followed by light exposure (photochemical internalization, PCI) results in transfer of agents from the endocytic compartment into the cytosol.


The recombinant single-chain fusion construct scFvMEL/rGel is composed of an antibody targeting the progenitor marker HMW-MAA/NG2/MGP/gp240 and the highly effective toxin gelonin (rGel). Here we demonstrate enhanced tumor cell selectivity, cytosolic delivery and anti-tumor activity by applying PCI of scFvMEL/rGel. PCI performed by light activation of cells co-incubated with scFvMEL/rGel and the endo-lysosomal targeting photosensitizers AlPcS(2a) or TPPS(2a) resulted in enhanced cytotoxic effects against antigen-positive cell lines, while no differences in cytotoxicity between the scFvMEL/rGel and rGel were observed in antigen-negative cells. Mice bearing well-developed melanoma (A-375) xenografts (50-100 mm(3)) were treated with PCI of scFvMEL/rGel. By 30 days after injection, approximately 100% of mice in the control groups had tumors>800 mm(3). In contrast, by day 40, 50% of mice in the PCI of scFvMEL/rGel combination group had tumors<800 mm(3) with no increase in tumor size up to 110 days. PCI of scFvMEL/rGel resulted in a synergistic effect (p<0.05) and complete regression (CR) in 33% of tumor-bearing mice (n = 12).


This is a unique demonstration that a non-invasive multi-modality approach combining a recombinant, targeted therapeutic such as scFvMEL/rGel and PCI act in concert to provide potent in vivo efficacy without sacrificing selectivity or enhancing toxicity. The present DDS warrants further evaluation of its clinical potential.

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