The mechanism of tumour necrosis photosensitised by liposome-delivered Zn(II) phthalocyanine (Zn-Pc) has been studied in mice bearing a transplanted MS-2 fibrosarcoma. Ultrastructural analyses of tumour specimens obtained at different times after red light-irradiation (300 J cm-2, dose-rate 180 mW cm-2) indicate an early (3 h) photodamage of malignant cells especially at the level of the mitochondria and rough endoplasmic reticulum. The cellular damage becomes more evident between 6 h and 15 h after photodynamic therapy. On the other hand, the capillaries supplying the tumour tissue are modified at a much slower rate and appear to be severely damaged only after 15 h from irradiation, when the whole tissue becomes necrotic. Occasionally, mildly damaged capillaries are observed even at 72 h after irradiation. These findings support the hypothesis that low density lipoproteins (LDL) play a major role in the delivery of Zn-Pc to the tumour tissue; the photosensitiser is released specifically to malignant cells as a consequence of a receptor-mediated endocytosis of LDL.
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