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Porphycenes: Facts and Prospects in Photodynamic Therapy of Cancer

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The photodynamic process induces cell damage and death by the combined effect of a photosensitizer (PS), visible light, and molecular oxygen, which generate singlet oxygen (1O2) and other reactive oxygen species that are responsible for cytotoxicity. The most important application of this process with increasing biomedical interest is the photodynamic therapy (PDT) of cancer. In addition to hematoporphyrin-based drugs, 2nd generation PSs with better photochemical properties are now studied using cell cultures, experimental tumors and clinical trials. Porphycene is a structural isomer of porphyrin and constitutes an interesting new class of PS. Porphycene derivatives show higher absorption than porphyrins in the red spectral region (lλ > 600 nm, η > 50000 M-1·cm-1) owing to the lower molecular symmetry. Photophysical and photobiological properties of porphycenes make them excellent candidates as PSs, showing fast uptake and diverse subcellular localizations (mainly membranous organelles). Several tetraalkylporphycenes and the tetraphenyl derivative (TPPo) induce photodamage and cell death in vitro. Photodynamic treatments of cultured tumor cells with TPPo and its palladium(II) complex induce cytoskeletal changes, mitotic blockage, and dose-dependent apoptotic or necrotic cell death. Some pharmacokinetic and phototherapeutic studies on experimental tumors after intravenous or topical application of lipophilic alkylsubstituted porphycene derivatives are known. Taking into account all these features, porphycene PSs should be very useful for PDT of cancer and other biomedical applications.

Keywords: Antitumor agents; Cell cultures; Cell death mechanisms; Photodynamic therapy; Photosensitizers; Porphycenes

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Departamento de Biologia,Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Cantoblanco,28049-Madrid, Spain.

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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