Mechanism of cell death mediated by a BF2-chelated tetraaryl-azadipyrromethene photodynamic therapeutic: dissection of the apoptotic pathway in vitro and in vivo

Int J Cancer. 2012 Feb 1;130(3):705-15. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26073. Epub 2011 May 26.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is an established treatment modality for cancer. ADPM06 is an emerging non-porphyrin PDT agent which has been specifically designed for therapeutic application. Recently, we have demonstrated that ADPM06-PDT is well tolerated in vivo and elicits impressive complete response rates in various models of cancer when a short drug-light interval is applied. Herein, the mechanism of action of ADPM06-PDT in vitro and in vivo is outlined. Using a drug and light combination that reduces the clonogenicity of MDA-MB-231 cells by >90%, we detected a well-orchestrated apoptotic response accompanied by the activation of various caspases in vitro. The generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) upon photosensitizer irradiation was found to be the key instigator in the observed apoptotic response, with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) found to be the intracellular site of initial PDT damage, as determined by induction of a rapid ER stress response post-PDT. PDT-induced apoptosis was also found to be independent of p53 tumor suppressor status. A robust therapeutic response in vivo was demonstrated, with a substantial reduction in tumor proliferation observed, as well as a rapid induction of apoptosis and initiation of ER stress, mirroring numerous aspects of the mechanism of action of ADPM06 in vitro. Finally, using a combination of (18) F-labeled 3'-deoxy-3'-fluorothymidine ((18) F-FLT) nuclear and optical imaging, a considerable decrease in tumor proliferation over 24-hr in two models of human cancer was observed. Taken together, this data clearly establishes ADPM06 as an exciting novel PDT agent with significant potential for further translational development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis* / drug effects
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects
  • Female
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Protein Unfolding / drug effects
  • Pyrroles / pharmacology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Pyrroles
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Caspases
  • ADPM06