Verteporfin-and sodium porfimer-mediated photodynamic therapy enhances pancreatic cancer cell death without activating stromal cells in the microenvironment

Jingjing Lu, Bhaskar Roy, Marlys Anderson, Cadman L. Leggett, Michael J. Levy, Brian Pogue, Tayyaba Hasan, Kenneth K. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The goal of our study was to determine the susceptibility of different pancreatic cell lines to clinically applicable photodynamic therapy (PDT). The efficacy of PDT of two different commercially available photosensitizers, verteporfin and sodium porfimer, was compared using a panel of four different pancreatic cancer cell lines, PANC-1, BxPC-3, CAPAN-2, and MIA PaCa-2, and an immortalized non-neoplastic pancreatic ductal epithelium cell line, HPNE. The minimum effective concentrations and dose-dependent curves of verteporfin and sodium porfimer on PANC-1 were determined. Since pancreatic cancer is known to have significant stromal components, the effect of PDT on stromal cells was also assessed. To mimic tumor-stroma interaction, a co-culture of primary human fibroblasts or human pancreatic stellate cell (HPSCs) line with PANC-1 was used to test verteporfin-PDT-mediated cell death of PANC-1. Two cytokines (TNF-α and IL-1β) were used for stimulation of primary fibroblasts (derived from human esophageal biopsies) or HPSCs. The increased expression of smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) confirmed the activation of fibroblasts or HPSC upon treatment with TNF-α and IL-1β. Cell death assays showed that both sodium porfimer-and verteporfin-mediated PDT-induced cell death in a dose-dependent manner. However, verteporfin-PDT treatment had a greater efficiency with 60 × lower concentration than sodium porfimer-PDT in the PANC-1 incubated with stimulated fibroblasts or HPSC. Moreover, activation of stromal cells did not affect the treatment of the pancreatic cancer cell lines, suggesting that the effects of PDT are independent of the inflammatory microenvironment found in this two-dimensional culture model of cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118001
JournalJournal of Biomedical Optics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • fibroblast
  • pancreatic cancer
  • photodynamic therapy
  • photosensitizer
  • sodium porfimer
  • verteporfin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering


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