An improved in vitro photochemical internalization protocol for 3D spheroid cultures

Lasers Med Sci. 2021 Oct;36(8):1567-1571. doi: 10.1007/s10103-021-03332-y. Epub 2021 Jun 29.


Photochemical internalization (PCI) is a modified form of photodynamic therapy (PDT) that enhances the efficacy of therapeutic agents in a site and temporal specific manner in both in vitro and in vivo publications. The purpose of the study reported here was to evaluate the benefits of a modified PCI protocol in a 3D rat glioma spheroid model. In the modified protocol, F98 glioma cells were incubated with photosensitizer (AlPcS2a) prior to spheroid generation, as opposed to post-spheroid formation photosensitizer exposure commonly used in conventional protocols. The efficacy of both bleomycin and doxorubicin PCI was evaluated using either the conventional or modified protocols. The formed spheroids were then exposed to light treatment from a diode laser, λ= 670 nm. Spheroid growth was monitored for a period of 14 days. The results of spheroid growth assays showed that there was no statistically significant difference in PCI efficacy between the conventional and modified protocols for both of the drugs tested. The direct PDT effect was significantly reduced using the modified protocol. Therefore, due to its several advantages, the modified protocol is recommended for evaluating the efficacy of PCI in tumor spheroid models.

Keywords: Drug activation; Photochemical internalization; Photodynamic therapy; Tumor spheroids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bleomycin / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Glioma* / drug therapy
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Rats


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Bleomycin