The combination of photodynamic therapy (PDT) with anti-tumor agents is a complimentary strategy to treat local cancers. We developed a unique photosensitizer (PS)-conjugated paclitaxel (PTX) prodrug in which a PS is excited by near-infrared wavelength light to site-specifically release PTX while generating singlet oxygen (SO) to effectively kill cancer cells with both PTX and SO. The aim of the present study was to identify the determinants influencing the combined efficacy of this light-activatable prodrug, especially the bystander killing effects from released PTX. Using PS-conjugated PTX as a model system, we developed a quantitative mathematical model describing the intracellular trafficking. Dynamics of the prodrug and the model predictions were verified with experimental data using human cancer cells in vitro. The sensitivity analysis suggested that parameters related to extracellular concentration of released PTX, prodrug uptake, target engagement, and target abundance are critical in determining the combined killing efficacy of the prodrug. We found that released PTX cytotoxicity was most sensitive to the retention time of the drug in extracellular space. Modulating drug internalization and conjugating the agents targeted to abundant receptors may provide a new strategy for maximizing the killing capacity of the far-red light-activatable prodrug system. These results provide guidance for the design of the PDT combination study in vivo and have implications for other stimuli-responsive drug delivery systems.
- Bystander killing
- Combination therapy
- Intracellular PK/PD modeling and simulation
- Photodynamic therapy