Induction of tumor immunity by photodynamic therapy

J Clin Laser Med Surg. 1996 Oct;14(5):329-34. doi: 10.1089/clm.1996.14.329.


The mechanism of tumor destruction by photodynamic therapy (PDT) incorporates a variety of events leading to inactivation of tumor cells. The unique feature of PDT is the mobilization of the host to participate in the eradication of treated cancer. A critical element is the induced inflammation at the treated site associated with massive invasion of activated myeloid cells. In addition to further destruction of cancer cells, conditions are created for the presentation of tumor antigens with subsequent activation of lymphoid cells, leading to tumor-specific immunity. This inflammation-primed immune development process results in generation of tumor-specific immune memory cells that appear to be elicited against both strongly and poorly immunogenic PDT-treated cancers. Once generated by PDT, it is conceivable that these immune cells (especially if further expanded and activated by adjuvant immunotherapy) can be engaged in additional eradication of disseminated and/or metastatic lesions of the same cancer. A number of immunotherapy regimens have already been proven effective in enhancing the curative effect of PDT with various animal tumor models. Inflamed cancerous tissue at the PDT-treated site appears to exert powerful attracting signals for immune cells activated by different immunotherapy regimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Immunotherapy, Active / methods*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Photosensitizing Agents