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Derm News: 2007.6(5)

Photodynamic therapy: update 2006 Part 1: Photochemistry and photobiology

Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, March 2007;21(3):293-302
PG Calzavara-Pinton, M Venturini, R Sala
ABSTRACT

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a two-step therapeutic technique in which the topical or systemic delivery of photosensitizing drugs is followed by irradiation with visible light. Activated photosensitizers transfer energy to molecular oxygen, generating reactive oxygen species (ROS). The subsequent oxidation of lipids, amino acids and proteins induces cell necrosis and apoptosis. In addition, ROS indirectly stimulate the transcription and release of inflammatory mediators. The photosensitizers are selective, in that they penetrate and accumulate in tumour cells or in the endothelium of newly formed vessels while generally avoiding the surrounding healthy tissue. The mechanisms of penetration through the cell membrane and the pattern of subcellular localization strongly influence the type of cellular effect.

The photobiology and photoimmunology of the haematoporphyrin (Hp) derivative and its purified, lyophilized and concentrated form porfimer sodium have been investigated over the past 30 years. However, interest in PDT in dermatology was not raised until the 1990s with the availability of a simple and effective technique, the topical application of aminolaevulinic acid (ALA) and its methyl ester (methyl aminolaevulinate, MAL) followed by irradiation with broadband red light.

At the same time, several new 'second-generation' synthetic sensitizers (e.g. benzoporphyrin derivatives, phthalocyanines, chlorins and porphycenes) became available. These compounds are chemically pure, highly efficient, selective and safe, while offering the advantage that the generalized skin photosensitivity they produce lasts for only a short time. They are currently under clinical evaluation but have not yet been approved for clinical use.

This paper provides an overview of the chemistry of the photosensitizers, the photobiology and photoimmunology of the photodynamic reaction as well as the photophysical characteristics of the light sources available for PDT.


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The Derm News service provided by the Editorial Consultants of Skin Therapy Letter© and its founding editor Dr. Stuart Maddin.