Regulation of redox balance using a biocompatible nanoplatform enhances phototherapy efficacy and suppresses tumor metastasis†
Many cancer treatments including photodynamic therapy (PDT) utilize reactive oxygen species (ROS) to kill tumor cells. However, elevated antioxidant defense systems in cancer cells result in resistance to the therapy involving ROS. Here we describe a highly effective phototherapy through regulation of redox homeostasis with a biocompatible and versatile nanotherapeutic to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis. We systematically explore and exploit methylene blue adsorbed polydopamine nanoparticles as a targeted and precise nanocarrier, oxidative stress amplifier, photodynamic/photothermal agent, and multimodal probe for fluorescence, photothermal and photoacoustic imaging to enhance anti-tumor efficacy. Remarkably, following the glutathione-stimulated photosensitizer release to generate exogenous ROS, polydopamine eliminates the endogenous ROS scavenging system through depleting the primary antioxidant, thus amplifying the phototherapy and effectively suppressing tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, this approach enables a robust inhibition against breast cancer metastasis, as oxidative stress is a vital impediment to distant metastasis in tumor cells. Innovative, safe and effective nanotherapeutics via regulation of redox balance may provide a clinically relevant approach for cancer treatment.