Photodynamic cancer therapy - Recent advances

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The basic principle of the photodynamic effect was discovered over a hundred years ago leading to the pioneering work on PDT in Europe. It was only during the 1980s, however, when "photoradiation therapy" was investigated as a possible treatment modality for cancer. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a photochemotherapeutic process which requires the use of a photosensitizer (PS) that, upon entry into a cancer cell is targeted by laser irradiation to initiate a series of events that contribute to cell death. PSs are light-sensitive dyes activated by a light source at a specific wavelength and can be classified as first or second generation PSs based on its origin and synthetic pathway. The principle of PS activation lies in a photochemical reaction resulting from excitation of the PS producing singlet oxygen which in turn reacts and damages cell organelles and biomolecules required for cell function and ultimately leading to cell destruction. Several first and second generation PSs have been studied in several different cancer types in the quest to optimize treatment. PSs including haematoporphyrin derivative (HpD), aminolevulinic acid (ALA), chlorins, bacteriochlorins, phthalocyanines, naphthalocyanines, pheophorbiedes and purpurins all require selective uptake and retention by cancer cells prior to activation by a light source and subsequent cell death induction. Photodynamic diagnosis (PDD) is based on the fluorescence effect exhibited by PSs upon irradiation and is often used concurrently with PDT to detect and locate tumours. Both laser and light emitting diodes (LED) have been used for PDT depending on the location of the tumour. Internal cancers more often require the use of laser light delivery using fibre optics as delivery system while external PDT often make use of LEDs. Normal cells have a lower uptake of the PS in comparison to tumour cells, however the acute cytotoxic effect of the compound on the recovery rate of normal cells is not known. Subcellular localization of PS is of vital importance when cell death mechanism is identified. Programmed cell death (PCD) viz. apoptosis, necrosis and autophagy have all been identified as inducible cell death mechanisms during PDT. While apoptosis is probably the preferred cell death mechanism, understanding the molecular differences and identifying the cross-talk between these mechanisms are crucial to the development of new PSs aimed at improving the killing efficiency and overall effectiveness of PDT as a cancer treatment modality. This paper reviews the process of PDT cancer therapy, the available PSs, their effectiveness for different cancers as well as the cell death mechanisms identified during PDT of different cancers associated with specific PSs.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication8th International Conference on Laser Applications, ICLA 2011
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event8th International Conference on Laser Applications, ICLA 2011 - Cairo, Egypt
Duration: 1 May 20115 May 2011

Publication series

NameAIP Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0094-243X
ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616


Conference8th International Conference on Laser Applications, ICLA 2011


  • Cell Death
  • Killer Beacons
  • Metallophthalocyanines
  • Nanoparticles
  • Photo-activation
  • Photodynamic Therapy
  • Photosensitizers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


Dive into the research topics of 'Photodynamic cancer therapy - Recent advances'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this