Photodynamic therapy for cancer and for infections: What is the difference?

Sulbha K. Sharma, Pawel Mroz, Tianhong Dai, Ying Ying Huang, Tyler G.St Denis, Michael R. Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) was discovered over one hundred years ago when it was observed that certain dyes could kill microorganisms when exposed to light in the presence of oxygen. Since those early days, PDT has mainly been developed as a cancer therapy and as a way to destroy proliferating blood vessels. However, recently it has become apparent that PDT may also be used as an effective antimicrobial modality and a potential treatment for localized infections. This review discusses the similarities and differences between the application of PDT for the treatment of microbial infections and for cancer lesions. Type I and type II photodynamic processes are described, and the structurefunction relationships of optimal anticancer and antimicrobial photosensitizers are outlined. The different targeting strategies, intracellular photosensitizer localization, and pharmacokinetic properties of photosensitizers required for these two different PDT applications are compared and contrasted. Finally, the ability of PDT to stimulate an adaptive or innate immune response against pathogens and tumors is also covered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-705
Number of pages15
JournalIsrael Journal of Chemistry
Issue number8-9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimicrobial agents
  • Antitumor agents
  • Cancer
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Sensitizers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry


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