Cupric-ion-promoted fabrication of oxygen-replenishing nanotherapeutics for synergistic chemo and photodynamic therapy against tumor hypoxia

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-71
Journal / PublicationActa Biomaterialia
Online published20 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


Mixing a glutathione (GSH)-responsive carboxy zinc(II) phthalocyanine (ZnPc*) and CuSO4·5H2O in water with or without the presence of the anticancer drug SN38 resulted in the formation of self-assembled nanotherapeutics labeled as ZnPc*/Cu/SN38@NP and ZnPc*/Cu@NP, respectively. The Cu2+ ions not only promoted the self-assembly of the carboxy phthalocyanine through metal complexation, but also catalyzed the transformation of H2O2 to oxygen via a catalase-like reaction, rendering an oxygen-replenishing property to the nanosystems. Both nanosystems exhibited high stability in aqueous media, but the nanoparticles disassembled gradually in an acidic or GSH-enriched environment and inside human colorectal adenocarcinoma HT29 cells, releasing the encapsulated therapeutic components. The disassembly process together with the activation by the intracellular GSH led to relaxation of the intrinsic quenching of the nanophotosensitizers and restoration of the photoactivities of ZnPc*. Under a hypoxic condition, ZnPc*/Cu/SN38@NP could attenuate the intracellular hypoxia level and maintain the photodynamic activity due to its Cu2+-promoted oxygen-replenishing ability. The photodynamic effect of ZnPc* and the anticancer effect of SN38 worked cooperatively, causing substantial apoptotic cell death. The dual therapeutic actions could also effectively inhibit the tumor growth in HT29 tumor-bearing nude mice without initiating notable adverse effects to the mice.

Statement of significance

The oxygen-dependent nature of photodynamic therapy generally reduces its efficacy against tumor hypoxia, which is a common characteristic of advanced solid tumors and usually leads to resistance toward various anticancer therapies. We report herein a facile approach to assemble a glutathione-responsive carboxy phthalocyanine-based photosensitizer and an anticancer drug in aqueous media, in which Cu(II) ions were used to promote the self-assembly through metal complexation and catalyze the conversion of H2O2 to oxygen through a catalase-like reaction, making the resulting nanoparticles possessing an oxygen-replenishing property that could promote the photodynamic effect against hypoxic cancer cells and tumors. The use of Cu(II) ions to achieve the aforementioned dual functions in the fabrication of advanced nano-photosensitizing systems has not been reported. © 2023 Acta Materialia Inc.

Research Area(s)

  • Catalase-like reaction, Copper, Hypoxia, Photodynamic therapy, Phthalocyanines

Citation Format(s)