Phototoxic lesions generated in tumor tissue by photodynamic therapy (PDT) are recognized by the host as a threat to the integrity and homeostasis at the affected site. Among the canonical pathways invoked by the host for dealing with this type of challenge is the activation of the complement system, integrating proteins that serve as molecular sensors of danger signals produced by PDT and those initiating signalling cascades coupled into the network of inflammatory and immune responses. Since the activated complement system is a salient participant of the antitumor response produced by PDT, it is worth exploring whether its manipulation can be exploited for the therapeutic benefit. Using mouse tumor models, the present study examined the potential of representative complement-activating agents to act as effective adjuvants to PDT. Tumor-localized treatment with zymosan, an alternative complement pathway activator, reduced the recurrence-rate of PDT-treated tumors, markedly increasing the percentage of permanent cures. In contrast, a similar treatment with heat aggregated gamma globulin (complement activator via the classical pathway) was of no significant benefit as a PDT adjuvant. Systemic complement activation with streptokinase treatment had no detectable effect on complement deposition at the tumor site without PDT, but it augmented the extent of complement activity in PDT-treated tumors. This finding based on immunohistochemistry analysis explains the results of tumor therapy experiments, which showed that systemic treatment with streptokinase or a similar agent, urokinase, enhances the PDT-mediated tumor response. Zymosan and streptokinase administrations produced no beneficial results with PDT of tumors growing in complement-deficient mice. This study, therefore, establishes the potential of complement-activating agents to serve as effective adjuvants to PDT for cancer treatment.
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