Porphycenes: facts and prospects in photodynamic therapy of cancer

Curr Med Chem. 2007;14(9):997-1026. doi: 10.2174/092986707780362934.


The photodynamic process induces cell damage and death by the combined effect of a photosensitizer (PS), visible light, and molecular oxygen, which generate singlet oxygen ((1)O(2)) and other reactive oxygen species that are responsible for cytotoxicity. The most important application of this process with increasing biomedical interest is the photodynamic therapy (PDT) of cancer. In addition to hematoporphyrin-based drugs, 2nd generation PSs with better photochemical properties are now studied using cell cultures, experimental tumors and clinical trials. Porphycene is a structural isomer of porphyrin and constitutes an interesting new class of PS. Porphycene derivatives show higher absorption than porphyrins in the red spectral region (lambda > 600 nm, epsilon > 50000 M-(1)cm(-1)) owing to the lower molecular symmetry. Photophysical and photobiological properties of porphycenes make them excellent candidates as PSs, showing fast uptake and diverse subcellular localizations (mainly membranous organelles). Several tetraalkylporphycenes and the tetraphenyl derivative (TPPo) induce photodamage and cell death in vitro. Photodynamic treatments of cultured tumor cells with TPPo and its palladium(II) complex induce cytoskeletal changes, mitotic blockage, and dose-dependent apoptotic or necrotic cell death. Some pharmacokinetic and phototherapeutic studies on experimental tumors after intravenous or topical application of lipophilic alkyl-substituted porphycene derivatives are known. Taking into account all these features, porphycene PSs should be very useful for PDT of cancer and other biomedical applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Photochemotherapy / methods*
  • Photochemotherapy / standards
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Porphyrins / pharmacology*
  • Porphyrins / therapeutic use


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Porphyrins
  • porphycene