Proton-dynamic therapy following photosensitiser activation by accelerated protons demonstrated through fluorescence and singlet oxygen production

Nat Commun. 2019 Sep 4;10(1):3986. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12042-7.


We demonstrate excitation of photosensitisers (PSs) by accelerated protons to produce fluorescence and singlet oxygen. Their fluorescence follows a pattern similar to the proton energy loss in matter, while proton-derived fluorescence spectra match the photon-induced spectra. PSs excited in dry gelatin exhibit enhanced phosphorescence, suggesting an efficient PSs triplet state population. Singlet oxygen measurements, both optically at ~1270 nm and through the photoproduct of protoporphyrin IX (PpIX), demonstrate cytotoxic singlet oxygen generation by proton excitation. The singlet oxygen-specific scavenger 1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane (DABCO) abrogates the photoproduct formation under proton excitation, but cannot countermand the overall loss of PpIX fluorescence. Furthermore, in two cell lines, M059K and T98G, we observe differential cell death upon the addition of the PS cercosporin, while in U87 cells we see no effect at any proton irradiation dose. Our results pave the way for a novel treatment combining proton therapy and "proton-dynamic therapy" for more efficient tumour eradication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Death / radiation effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chemoradiotherapy
  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Perylene / analogs & derivatives
  • Perylene / pharmacology
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Proton Therapy / methods*
  • Protons*
  • Protoporphyrins / metabolism*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / pharmacology
  • Singlet Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Piperazines
  • Protons
  • Protoporphyrins
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Singlet Oxygen
  • Perylene
  • protoporphyrin IX
  • cercosporin
  • triethylenediamine