Lung cancer is the greatest cause of cancer mortality in the United States, necessitating ongoing improvements in current treatment techniques. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the interaction between a photosensitizer, light, and oxygen. The resulting release of reactive oxygen species causes tumor necrosis. It has been used as an endoscopic technique for the palliation of lung cancer. Porfimer sodium (Photofrin) is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved photosensitizer for PDT but has limited depth of penetration and produces prolonged skin phototoxicity. Multiple newer photosensitizers are in development, including PS785. The effectiveness of PS785 was compared with porfimer sodium in the treatment of human lung cancer xenografts in mice.
Human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) xenografts were established in severe combined immunodeficient mice and grouped into small (3-5 mm) and large tumors (6-10 mm). PS785 or porfimer sodium was administered intravenously, and PDT was executed at 24, 48, or 72 h after injection. The primary endpoint was the delay of tumor regrowth after PDT.
Porfimer sodium and PS785 produced statistically similar delays of tumor regrowth after PDT when small tumors were treated at 24 and 48 h. At 72 h, PS785 performed better in small tumors. However, for large tumors, PS785 produced no delay in tumor regrowth at any time point.
PS785 and porfimer sodium were able to effectively treat NSCLC to a depth of ≤5 mm. However, porfimer sodium was more effective in treating NSCLC tumors to a depth of 6-10 mm. Further efforts are required to produce photosensitizers that will facilitate PDT of larger tumors.

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