Doxycycline potentiates antitumor effect of 5-aminolevulinic acid-mediated photodynamic therapy in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor cells

Ming Jen Lee, Shih Hsuan Hung, Mu Ching Huang, Tsuimin Tsai, Chin Tin Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is one of the most common neurocutaneous disorders. Some NF1 patients develop benign large plexiform neurofibroma(s) at birth, which can then transform into a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST). There is no curative treatment for this rapidly progressive and easily metastatic neurofibrosarcoma. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) has been developed as an anti-cancer treatment, and 5-aminolevulinic (ALA) mediated PDT (ALA-PDT) has been used to treat cutaneous skin and oral neoplasms. Doxycycline, a tetracycline derivative, can substantially reduce the tumor burden in human and animal models, in addition to its antimicrobial effects. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect and to investigate the mechanism of action of combined doxycycline and ALA-PDT treatment of MPNST cells. An 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay showed that the combination of ALA-PDT and doxycycline significantly reduce MPNST survival rate, compared to cells treated with each therapy alone. Isobologram analysis showed that the combined treatment had a synergistic effect. The increased cytotoxic activity could be seen by an increase in cellular protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) accumulation. Furthermore, we found that the higher retention of PpIX was mainly due to increasing ALA uptake, rather than activity changes of the enzymes porphobilinogen deaminase and ferrochelatase. The combined treatment inhibited tumor growth in different tumor cell lines, but not in normal human Schwann cells or fibroblasts. Similarly, a synergistic interaction was also found in cells treated with ALA-PDT combined with minocycline, but not tetracycline. In summary, doxycycline can potentiate the effect of ALA-PDT to kill tumor cells. This increased potency allows for a dose reduction of doxycycline and photodynamic radiation, reducing the occurrence of toxic side effects in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0178493
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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