Androgen Receptor Targeted Conjugate for Bimodal Photodynamic Therapy of Prostate Cancer in Vitro

Valentina Rapozzi, Daniele Ragno, Andrea Guerrini, Claudia Ferroni, Emilia Della Pietra, Daniela Cesselli, Gabriella Castoria, Marzia Di Donato, Emanuela Saracino, Valentina Benfenati, Greta Varchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Prostate cancer (PC) represents the most common type of cancer among males and is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in Western society. Current options for PC therapy remain unsatisfactory, since they often produce uncomfortable long-term side effects, such as impotence (70%) and incontinence (5-20%) even in the first stages of the disease. Light-triggered therapies, such as photodynamic therapy, have the potential to provide important advances in the treatment of localized and partially metastasized prostate cancer. We have designed a novel molecular conjugate (DR2) constituted of a photosensitizer (pheophorbide a, Pba), connected to a nonsteroidal anti-androgen molecule through a small pegylated linker. This study aims at investigating whether DR2 represents a valuable approach for PC treatment based on light-induced production of single oxygen and nitric oxide (NO) in vitro. Besides being able to efficiently bind the androgen receptor (AR), the 2-trifluoromethylnitrobenzene ring on the DR2 backbone is able to release cytotoxic NO under the exclusive control of light, thus augmenting the general photodynamic effect. Although DR2 is similarly internalized in cells expressing different levels of androgen receptor, the AR ligand prevents its efflux through the ABCG2-pump. In vitro phototoxicity experiments demonstrated the ability of DR2 to kill cancer cells more efficiently than Pba, while no dark toxicity was observed. Overall, the presented approach is very promising for further development of AR-photosensitizer conjugates in the multimodal photodynamic treatment of prostate cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1662-1671
Number of pages10
JournalBioconjugate chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 19 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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