An oxygen-economical nano-photosensitizer with a high photodynamic therapeutic outcome via simultaneous reduction of the cellular respiration and oxygen depletion of PDT†
The development of photodynamic nanomedicines that can alleviate intratumoral oxygen deficiency during photodynamic therapy (PDT) is of great significance for improving the therapeutic outcome of solid tumors characterized by severe hypoxia. Massive oxygen consumption due to vigorous cellular respiration, i.e., mitochondrial-associated oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), is another major cause of severe tumor hypoxia in addition to insufficient oxygen supply. Moreover, oxygen depletion during PDT further exacerbates the shortage of intratumoral oxygen. In this work, we engineered a novel oxygen-economical nano-photosensitizer via co-encapsulation of an OXPHOS inhibitor (ATO) and a newly developed type-I photosensitizer (IPS) into a polymeric micelle of PEG-b-PCL. By controlling the length of hydrophobic PCL segments, we successfully optimized the micelle size to around 30 nm for enhanced tumor penetration. The orchestration of the two functional components, ATO and IPS, can simultaneously hinder the two major tumor oxygen-consuming pathways, where ATO targets mitochondrial complex III to inhibit cellular respiration, while IPS generates ROS through a low oxygen-consuming type-I photochemical pathway, enabling remarkable PDT efficacies in both hypoxic cells and a 4T1 tumor-bearing BALB/c mouse model. This work sheds new light on the construction of nano-photosensitizers to rejuvenate PDT against hypoxic solid tumors.