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Comparison of Cellular Death Pathways after mTHPC-mediated Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) in Five Human Cancer Cell Lines

Department of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, Institute of Pharmacy, University of Greifswald, Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Straße 17, 17489 Greifswald, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Cancers 2019, 11(5), 702;
Received: 23 April 2019 / Revised: 15 May 2019 / Accepted: 19 May 2019 / Published: 21 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) in Oncology)
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One of the most promising photosensitizers (PS) used in photodynamic therapy (PDT) is the porphyrin derivative 5,10,15,20-tetra(m-hydroxyphenyl)chlorin (mTHPC, temoporfin), marketed in Europe under the trade name Foscan®. A set of five human cancer cell lines from head and neck and other PDT-relevant tissues was used to investigate oxidative stress and underlying cell death mechanisms of mTHPC-mediated PDT in vitro. Cells were treated with mTHPC in equitoxic concentrations and illuminated with light doses of 1.8–7.0 J/cm2 and harvested immediately, 6, 24, or 48 h post illumination for analyses. Our results confirm the induction of oxidative stress after mTHPC-based PDT by detecting a total loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψm) and increased formation of ROS. However, lipid peroxidation (LPO) and loss of cell membrane integrity play only a minor role in cell death in most cell lines. Based on our results, apoptosis is the predominant death mechanism following mTHPC-mediated PDT. Autophagy can occur in parallel to apoptosis or the former can be dominant first, yet ultimately leading to autophagy-associated apoptosis. The death of the cells is in some cases accompanied by DNA fragmentation and a G2/M phase arrest. In general, the overall phototoxic effects and the concentrations as well as the time to establish these effects varies between cell lines, suggesting that the cancer cells are not all dying by one defined mechanism, but rather succumb to an individual interplay of different cell death mechanisms. Besides the evaluation of the underlying cell death mechanisms, we focused on the comparison of results in a set of five identically treated cell lines in this study. Although cells were treated under equitoxic conditions and PDT acts via a rather unspecific ROS formation, very heterogeneous results were obtained with different cell lines. This study shows that general conclusions after PDT in vitro require testing on several cell lines to be reliable, which has too often been ignored in the past. View Full-Text
Keywords: mTHPC; photodynamic therapy; oxidative stress; necrosis; apoptosis; autophagy; cell cycle mTHPC; photodynamic therapy; oxidative stress; necrosis; apoptosis; autophagy; cell cycle

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Lange, C.; Lehmann, C.; Mahler, M.; Bednarski, P.J. Comparison of Cellular Death Pathways after mTHPC-mediated Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) in Five Human Cancer Cell Lines. Cancers 2019, 11, 702.

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