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J Cancer Metastasis Treat. 2019;5. pii: 6. doi: 10.20517/2394-4722.2018.98. Epub 2019 Jan 24.

A non-toxic approach for treatment of breast cancer and its metastases: capecitabine enhanced photodynamic therapy in a murine breast tumor model.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.
Institute of Plastic Surgery and Dermatology, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.
Department of Molecular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.



Breast cancer (BCA) in women is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity; distant metastases occur in ~40% of cases. Here, as an alternative to ionizing radiation therapy and chemotherapy and their associated side effects, we explored a new combination approach using capecitabine (CPBN) and aminolevulinate-based photodynamic therapy (PDT). We had previously developed a combination PDT approach in which 5-fluorouracil (5FU), a differentiation-promoting agent, increases the levels of protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) in cancer cells when given as a neoadjuvant prior to aminolevulinic acid (ALA). However, 5FU can be toxic when administered systemically at high levels. We reasoned that CPBN, a known chemotherapeutic for BCA and less toxic than 5FU (because CPBN is metabolized to 5FU specifically within tumor tissues), might work equally well as a PDT neoadjuvant.


Murine 4T1 BCA cells harboring a luciferase transgene were injected into breast fat pads of female nude mice. CPBN (600 mg/kg/day) was administered by oral gavage for 3 days followed by intraperitoneal ALA administration and PDT with red light (633 nm) on day 4. Tumor growth and regression were monitored in vivo using bioluminescence imaging. Histological changes in primary tumors and metastases were assessed by immunohistochemistry after necropsy.


CPBN pretreatment of 4T1 tumors increased cellular differentiation, reduced proliferation, raised PpIX levels, enhanced tumor cell death, and reduced metastatic spread of 4T1 cells post-PDT, relative to vehicle-only controls.


The use of CPBN as a non-toxic PDT neoadjuvant for treatment of BCA represents a novel approach with significant potential for translation into the clinic.


4T1; Photodynamic therapy; aminolevulinic acid; breast cancer; cell death; in vivo imaging system; metastasis; protoporphyrin IX

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