The effects of low irradiance long duration photochemical internalization on glioma spheroids

Photodiagnosis Photodyn Ther. 2019 Jun;26:442-447. doi: 10.1016/j.pdpdt.2019.05.005. Epub 2019 May 7.


Background: Photodynamic therapy (PDT), if given over extended time periods (i.e. hours or days) and at very low irradiance in the μW/cm2 range, has been shown to be more effective than acute PDT (aPDT) administered over minutes. This has led to the concept of metronomic PDT (mPDT), which consists of ultra-low irradiance light illumination for extended periods of time along with either continuous or repetitive delivery of photosensitizer. Since the drug activating technology photochemical internalization (PCI) is based on PDT it seemed reasonable to expect that ultra-low irradiance, if administered over an extended period of time, could nevertheless result in effective metronomic PCI (mPCI) comparable to or more effective than that obtained with relatively high and short irradiance i.e. acute PCI (aPCI).

Methods: Tumor spheroids consisting of F98 cells were used as in-vitro tumor models. The amphiphilic photosensitizer Al phthalocyanine disulfonate (AlPcS2a) was used for all PCI experiments. Light treatment was administered from a diode laser at λ=670 nm at various irradiance exposures of 2 mW/cm2 for aPCI and 0.05 - 0.2 mW/cm2 for mPCI with durations ranging from 3 to 12 min for aPCI and 120 min for mPCI.

Results: AlPcS2a fluorescence was seen throughout the cytosol following short or long light treatment, corresponding to aPCI and mPCI respectively. Spheroid growth was significantly inhibited or completely suppressed at a mPCI radiance of 0.05 or 0.72 J/cm2 respectively, with all bleomycin (BLM) concentrations used, compared to either BLM alone or aPCI at radiant exposure at these levels. The effects of BLM-aPCI and mPCI were comparable at radiance levels of 0.96 and 1.44 J/cm2.

Conclusions: Results show that mPCI could effectively cause significant spheroid growth inhibition with the delivery of extremely low light irradiance rates delivered over an extended period of time. These findings suggest that effective implementation of mPCI can deliver adequate drug efficacy at depths necessary to reach infiltrating glioma cells in the surgical resection cavity wall.

Keywords: Metronomic photochemical internalization; Metronomic photodynamic therapy; PCI; Photochemical internalization; mPCI; mPDT.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bleomycin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Isoindoles
  • Lasers, Semiconductor
  • Photochemotherapy / methods*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Rats


  • Indoles
  • Isoindoles
  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Bleomycin
  • phthalocyanine