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Mechanisms of Resistance to Photodynamic Therapy

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Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the administration of a photosensitizer (PS) followed by illumination with visible light, leading to generation of reactive oxygen species. The mechanisms of resistance to PDT ascribed to the PS may be shared with the general mechanisms of drug resistance, and are related to altered drug uptake and efflux rates or altered intracellular trafficking. As a second step, an increased inactivation of oxygen reactive species is also associated to PDT resistance via antioxidant detoxifying enzymes and activation of heat shock proteins. Induction of stress response genes also occurs after PDT, resulting in modulation of proliferation, cell detachment and inducing survival pathways among other multiple extracellular signalling events. In addition, an increased repair of induced damage to proteins, membranes and occasionally to DNA may happen. PDT-induced tissue hypoxia as a result of vascular damage and photochemical oxygen consumption may also contribute to the appearance of resistant cells.

The structure of the PS is believed to be a key point in the development of resistance, being probably related to its particular subcellular localization.

Although most of the features have already been described for chemoresistance, in many cases, no cross-resistance between PDT and chemotherapy has been reported. These findings are in line with the enhancement of PDT efficacy by combination with chemotherapy. The study of cross resistance in cells with developed resistance against a particular PS challenged against other PS is also highly complex and comprises different mechanisms.

In this review we will classify the different features observed in PDT resistance, leading to a comparison with the mechanisms most commonly found in chemo resistant cells.
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Keywords: Chemoresistance; MDR; PDT; apoptosis; cross resistance; mechanisms; photodynamic therapy; photosensitizer; photosensitizers; porphyrins; resistance

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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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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