Kato T, Jin CS, Lee D, Ujiie H, Fujino K, Hu HP, Wada H, Wu L, Chen J, Weersink RA, Kanno H, Hatanaka Y, Hatanaka KC, Kaga K, Matsui Y, Matsuno Y, De Perrot M, Wilson BC, Zheng G, Yasufuku K
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) following lung-sparing extended pleurectomy for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) has been investigated as a potential means to kill residual microscopic cells. High expression levels of folate receptor 1 (FOLR1) have been reported in MPM; therefore, targeting FOLR1 has been considered a novel potential strategy. The present study developed FOLR1‑targeting porphyrin-lipid nanoparticles (folate-porphysomes, FP) for the treatment of PDT. Furthermore, inhibition of activated epidermal growth factor (EGFR)-associated survival pathways enhance PDT efficacy. In the present study, these approaches were combined; FP-based PDT was used together with an EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI). The frequency of FOLR1 and EGFR expression in MPM was analyzed using tissue microarrays. Confocal microscopy and a cell viability assay were performed to confirm the specificity of FOLR1‑targeting cellular uptake and photocytotoxicity in vitro. In vivo fluorescence activation and therapeutic efficacy were subsequently examined. The effects of EGFR-TKI were also assessed in vitro. The in vivo combined antitumor effect of EGFR-TKI and FP-PDT was then evaluated. The results revealed that FOLR1 and EGFR were expressed in 79 and 89% of MPM samples, respectively. In addition, intracellular uptake of FP corresponded well with FOLR1 expression. When MPM cells were incubated with FP and then irradiated at 671 nm, there was significant in vitro cell death, which was inhibited in the presence of free folic acid, thus suggesting the specificity of FPs. FOLR1 targeting resulted in disassembly of the porphysomes and subsequent fluorescence activation in intrathoracic disseminated MPM tumors, as demonstrated by ex vivo tissue imaging. FP-PDT resulted in significant cellular damage and apoptosis in vivo. Furthermore, the combination of pretreatment with EGFR-TKI and FP-PDT induced a marked improvement of treatment responses. In conclusion, FP-based PDT induced selective destruction of MPM cells based on FOLR1 targeting, and pretreatment with EGFR-TKI further enhanced the therapeutic response.