From Low to No O2-Dependent Hypoxia Photodynamic Therapy (hPDT): A New Perspective

Mingle Li, Yunjie Xu, Xiaojun Peng, Jong Seung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


ConspectusThe advent of photochemical techniques has revolutionized the landscape of biology and medical sciences. Especially appealing in this context is photodynamic therapy (PDT), which is a photon-initiated treatment modality that uses cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) to kill malignant cells. In the past decade, PDT has risen to the forefront of cancer therapy. Its optical control enables noninvasive and spatiotemporal manipulation of the treatment process, and its photoactive nature allows unique patterns to avoid drug resistance to conventional chemotherapeutics. However, despite the impressive advances in this field, achieving widespread clinical adoption of PDT remains difficult. A major concern is that in the hostile tumor microenvironment, tumor cells are hypoxic, which hinders ROS generation during PDT action. To overcome this "Achilles' heel", current strategies focus primarily on the improvement of the intratumoral O2perfusion, while clinical trials suggest that O2enrichment may promote cancer cell proliferation and metastasis, thereby making FDA approval and clinical transformation of these paradigms challenging.In an effort to improve hypoxia photodynamic therapy (hPDT) in the clinic, we have explored "low to no O2-dependent" photochemical approaches over the years to combat hypoxia-induced resistance. In this Account, we present our contributions to this theme during the past 5 years, beginning with low O2-dependent approaches (e.g., type I superoxide radical (O2•-) generator, photodynamic O2-economizer, mitochondrial respiration inhibition, cellular self-protective pathway modulation, etc.) and progressing to O2-independent strategies (e.g., autoadaptive PDT/PTT complementary therapy, O2-independent artificial photoredox catalysis in cells). These studies have attracted tremendous attention. Particularly in the pioneering work of 2018, we presented the first demonstration that the O2•--mediated partial O2-recyclability mechanism can overcome PDT resistance (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 14851-14859). This launched an era of renewed interest in type I PDT, resulting in a plethora of new O2•-photogenerators developed by many groups around the world. Moreover, with the discovery of O2-independent photoredox reactions in living cells, artificial photoredox catalysis has emerged as a new field connecting photochemistry and biomedicine, stimulating the development of next-generation phototherapeutic tools (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2022, 144, 163-173). Our recent work also disclosed that "photoredox catalysis in cells" might be a general mechanism of action of PDT (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2022, 119, e2210504119). These emergent concepts, molecular designs, photochemical mechanisms, and applications in cancer diagnosis and therapeutics, as well as pros and cons, are discussed in depth in this Account. It is expected that our contributions to date will be of general use to researchers and inspire future efforts to identify more promising hPDT approaches that better meet the clinical needs of cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3253-3264
Number of pages12
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 15

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'From Low to No O2-Dependent Hypoxia Photodynamic Therapy (hPDT): A New Perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this