Photochemical Internalization for Intracellular Drug Delivery. From Basic Mechanisms to Clinical Research

J Clin Med. 2020 Feb 14;9(2):528. doi: 10.3390/jcm9020528.


Photochemical internalisation (PCI) is a unique intervention which involves the release of endocytosed macromolecules into the cytoplasmic matrix. PCI is based on the use of photosensitizers placed in endocytic vesicles that, following light activation, lead to rupture of the endocytic vesicles and the release of the macromolecules into the cytoplasmic matrix. This technology has been shown to improve the biological activity of a number of macromolecules that do not readily penetrate the plasma membrane, including type I ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs), gene-encoding plasmids, adenovirus and oligonucleotides and certain chemotherapeutics, such as bleomycin. This new intervention has also been found appealing for intracellular delivery of drugs incorporated into nanocarriers and for cancer vaccination. PCI is currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Data from the first-in-human phase I clinical trial as well as an update on the development of the PCI technology towards clinical practice is presented here.

Keywords: bleomycin; drug delivery; endocytosis; gene therapy; immunotoxin; lysosomes; nanotechnology; nucleic acids; photochemical internalization; photodynamic.

Publication types

  • Review