Lysosomal accumulation of sunitinib has been suggested as an underlying mechanism of resistance. Here, we investigated if photochemical internalization (PCI), a technology for cytosolic release of drugs entrapped in endosomes and lysosomes, would activate lysosomal sequestered sunitinib. By super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, sunitinib was found to accumulate in the membrane of endo/lysosomal compartments together with the photosensitizer disulfonated tetraphenylchlorin (TPCS2a). Furthermore, the treatment effect was potentiated by PCI in the human HT-29 and the mouse CT26.WT colon cancer cell lines. The cytotoxic outcome of sunitinib-PCI was, however, highly dependent on the treatment protocol. Thus, neoadjuvant PCI inhibited lysosomal accumulation of sunitinib. PCI also inhibited lysosomal sequestering of sunitinib in HT29/SR cells with acquired sunitinib resistance, but did not reverse the resistance. The mechanism of acquired sunitinib resistance in HT29/SR cells was therefore not related to lysosomal sequestering. Sunitinib-PCI was further evaluated on HT-29 xenografts in athymic mice, but was found to induce only a minor effect on tumor growth delay. In immunocompetent mice sunitinib-PCI enhanced areas of treatment-induced necrosis compared to the monotherapy groups. However, the tumor growth was not delayed, and decreased infiltration of CD3-positive T cells was indicated as a possible mechanism behind the failed overall response.
Keywords: cytosolic release; lysosomal sequestration; photochemical internalization; photochemical release; photodynamic therapy; sunitinib; sunitinib resistance.