Tumor hypoxia is the Achilles heel of oxygen-dependent photodynamic therapy (PDT), and tremendous challenges are confronted to reverse the tumor hypoxia. In this work, an oxidative phosphorylation inhibitor of atovaquone (ATO) and a photosensitizer of chlorine e6 (Ce6)-based self-delivery nanomedicine (designated as ACSN) were prepared via π-π stacking and hydrophobic interaction for O2-economized PDT against hypoxic tumors. Specifically, carrier-free ACSN exhibited an extremely high drug loading rate and avoided the excipient-induced systemic toxicity. Moreover, ACSN not only dramatically improved the solubility and stability of ATO and Ce6 but also enhanced the cellular internalization and intratumoral permeability. Abundant investigations confirmed that ACSN effectively suppressed the oxygen consumption to reverse the tumor hypoxia by inhibiting mitochondrial respiration. Benefiting from the synergistic mechanism, an enhanced PDT effect of ACSN was observed on the inhibition of tumor growth. This self-delivery system for oxygen-economized PDT might be a potential appealing clinical strategy for tumor eradication.
Keywords: Hypoxia; Mitochondrial respiratory inhibition; Nanomedicine; Photodynamic therapy; Self-delivery.