European TARGET-PDT Study Aimed at Improving Photodynamic Therapy for Cancer Treatment

The TARGET-PDT project is designed to increase the effectiveness of photodynamic therapy (PDT) for treating cancer by developing a novel nanocarrier-based approach.

PDT is a minimally invasive treatment modality that destroys cancer cells with a combination of a photoactive drug known as a photosensitizer, a specific wavelength of light and oxygen. When the photosensitizer is activated by light, it produces some reactive oxygen species like singlet oxygen which are highly toxic for surrounding cancer cells.

Focusing on PDT against bone cancer and head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma, a tumor e.g. of the oral cavity, the team of the consortium will study the delivery and targeting of the photosensitizer encapsulated into lipid nanoparticles. For both cancer forms, current treatment regimes often result in low cure rates and show serious side effects or a poor functional outcome. The nanocarriers offer a high payload that will include antibodies targeting specific tumor biomarkers.

PDT has already shown significant potential for improving cancer treatment because it offers a strictly focused application, biocompatibility with other forms of treatment, the option for repeated use, excellent cosmetic or functional outcomes and fast recovery. Indeed, typically there is a modest enhanced accumulation of the photosensitizer in tumor tissues and an additional selectivity is mainly provided by the confined illumination of the target area.

But the use of PDT has been restrained by limited effectiveness of the photosensitizer on reaching the tumor and the potential damage to healthy cells around the tumor. Improved targeting of the photosensitizer by using targeted nanoparticles prevents damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

The European consortium expects the nanocarrier-based approach will significantly improve delivery and targeting of the photosensitizer, enhancing concentrations at the tumor site even after systemic application.

The TARGET-PDT project will study all aspects of PDT treatment: nanocarrier size and payload, photosensitizers such as chlorines and phthalocyanines, targeting methods and types of laser irradiation.

The experimental approach will be developed into a preclinical validation to deliver an optimised combination for first clinical “nano-PDT” at a later stage. By using nanotechnology-based photosensitizer delivery systems, the project will set the stage for improved control of the therapy and more comfort for cancer patients.

TARGET-PDT is a 3-years project funded by the European EuroNanoMed (ERANET) programme. It has been officially launched in March 2010 in Corrençon, France.

The consortium associates:

  • CEA-Leti, Grenoble, France, coordinator of the project, with expertise in micro- and nanotechnologies for life science and medicine
  • Centre Alexis Vautrin and LRGP, Nancy, France, developing new photosensitizers
  • University Hospital (Depts. of Cranio-maxillofacial Surgery and Orthopedics), Zurich, Switzerland, with current clinical practice of PDT on patients
  • The company Biolitec, Jena, Germany, as European leader in lasers and photosensitizers for PDT



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