Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a clinical modality used to treat cancer and infectious diseases. The main agent is the photosensitizer (PS), which is excited by light and converted to a triplet excited state. This latter species leads to the formation of singlet oxygen and radicals that oxidize biomolecules. The main motivation for this review is to suggest alternatives for achieving high-efficiency PDT protocols, by taking advantage of knowledge on the chemical and biological processes taking place during and after photosensitization. We defend that in order to obtain specific mechanisms of cell death and maximize PDT efficiency, PSes should oxidize specific molecular targets. We consider the role of subcellular localization, how PS photochemistry and photophysics can change according to its nanoenvironment, and how can all these trigger specific cell death mechanisms. We propose that in order to develop PSes that will cause a breakthrough enhancement in the efficiency of PDT, researchers should first consider tissue and intracellular localization, instead of trying to maximize singlet oxygen quantum yields in in vitro
tests. In addition to this, we also indicate many open questions and challenges remaining in this field, hoping to encourage future research.
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