Photochemical internalization (PCI) of bleomycin is equally effective in two dissimilar leiomyosarcoma xenografts in athymic mice

Photodiagnosis Photodyn Ther. 2017 Dec;20:95-106. doi: 10.1016/j.pdpdt.2017.08.015. Epub 2017 Sep 1.


Background: Photochemical internalization (PCI) is a novel technique for delivery of active macromolecules into cancerous cells, via light activation of a specific photosensitizer and a low dose systemic drug. Numerous pre-clinical studies and one clinical trial have confirmed the treatment potential in carcinomas. Soft tissue sarcomas are rare and generally resistant to radio- and chemotherapy. Due to treatment resistance and surgical morbidity in sarcoma care, we seek to increase knowledge on PCI effects in sarcomas by studying two different, but closely related leiomyosarcomas.

Methods: MES-SA and SK-LMS-1 tumours were established in the leg muscles of athymic mice. Treatment effects after AlPcS2a-PCI of bleomycin, PCI with no drug (photodynamic therapy, PDT) and control groups were evaluated by: 1) assessment of tumour growth, 2) uptake of contrast agent during MRI and 3) histopathology.

Results: PCI of bleomycin induced a similar and significant increase in time to reach the end point in both tumour models, while neither responded to AlPcS2a-PDT. In the MES-SA tumours PCI reduced the growth rate, while in the SK-LMS-1 tumours the growth was blocked for 12days followed by exponential growth close to that of untreated tumours. SK-LMS-1 tumours were more homogenously and better vascularized than MES-SA. After PCI the vascular shutdown was more complete in the SK-LMS-1 tumours than in the MES-SA tumours.

Conclusions: AlPcS2a-based PCI, but not PDT, induced significant tumour growth delay in the evaluated sarcomas. Cellular responsiveness to bleomycin and tumour vascularity are identified as predictive markers for PCI treatment effects.

Keywords: Bleomycin; In vivo; Photochemical internalization; Sarcoma; Vascular shutdown.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bleomycin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Genes, p53 / genetics
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Lasers, Semiconductor
  • Leiomyosarcoma / drug therapy*
  • Leiomyosarcoma / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Photochemotherapy / methods*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*


  • Indoles
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Bleomycin
  • aluminum phthalocyanine disulfonate