Vascular targeting for cancer is increasingly recognized as a therapeutic strategy although the lack of objective responses and the development of resistance are major limitations for clinically-available drugs. Endothelial targeted toxins exert increased toxicity compared to antiangiogenic drugs and may therefore overcome these limitations. The specificity and toxicity of targeted toxins may be increased by utilization of a drug delivery system which provides selective release of the targeted toxins in the target cells. Photochemical internalization (PCI) is a non-invasive modality which causes translocation into the cytosol of agents that are trapped in endosomes. This study describes the first use of PCI in combination with a recombinant fusion toxin targeting tumor vasculature. Endothelial cells bearing VEGFR2 treated with VEGF121/rGel showed dramatic enhancement of toxicity after PCI utilizing the photosensitizer TPCS2a (Amphinex®). We compared the PCI of VEGF121/rGel to that of bleomycin which is currently under clinical evaluation. The VEGFR2 specificity of VEGF121/rGel was shown to be preserved by the PCI treatment. PCI of VEGF121/rGel was further shown to induce vascular collapse and edema in the invasive areas of CT26.CL25 colon carcinoma tumors as shown by CD31 IHC. Antitumor effects, as assessed by tumor growth delay were found for PCI of VEGF121/rGel and PCI of bleomycin with cure rates of 40% and 33% respectively. PCI of VEGF121/rGel was, however, better tolerated compared to PCI of bleomycin. Thus, PCI of vascular targeted toxins provides higher specificity and increased tolerability compared to PCI of bleomycin and may represent an interesting clinical future for the PCI technology.
Keywords: Cytosolic delivery; Fusion toxins; Photochemical internalization; Photodynamic; VEGFR; Vascular targeting.
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