BackgroundAnti-cancer therapy is more successful when it can also induce an immunogenic form of cancer cell death (ICD). Therefore, when developing new treatment strategies, it is extremely important to choose methods that induce ICD and thereby activate anti-tumor immune response leading to the most effective destruction of tumor cells. The aim of this work was to analyze whether the clinically widely used photosensitizers, photosens (PS) and photodithazine (PD), can induce ICD when used in photodynamic therapy (PDT).MethodsCell death in murine glioma GL261 or fibrosarcoma MCA205 cells was induced by PS- or PD-PDT and cell death was analyzed by MTT or flow cytometry. Intracellular distribution of PS and PD was studied by using the laser scanning microscope. Calreticulin exposure and HMGB1 and ATP release were detected by flow cytometry, ELISA and luminescence assay, respectively. Immunogenicity in vitro was analyzed by co-culturing of dying cancer cells with bone-marrow derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) and rate of phagocytosis and maturation (CD11c+CD86+, CD11c+CD40+) of BMDCs and production of IL-6 in the supernatant were measured. In vivo immunogenicity was analyzed in mouse tumor prophylactic vaccination model.ResultsWe determined the optimal concentrations of the photosensitizers and found that at a light dose of 20 J/cm2 (λex 615–635 nm) both PS and PD efficiently induced cell death in glioma GL261 and fibrosarcoma MCA205 cells. We demonstrate that PS localized predominantly in the lysosomes and that the cell death induced by PS-PDT was inhibited by zVAD-fmk (apoptosis inhibitor) and by ferrostatin-1 and DFO (ferroptosis inhibitors), but not by the necroptosis inhibitor necrostatin-1 s. By contrast, PD accumulated in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus, and the cell death induced by PD-PDT was inhibited only by z-VAD-fmk. Dying cancer cells induced by PS-PDT or PD-PDT emit calreticulin, HMGB1 and ATP and they were efficiently engulfed by BMDCs, which then matured, became activated and produced IL-6. Using dying cancer cells induced by PS-PDT or PD-PDT, we demonstrate the efficient vaccination potential of ICD in vivo.ConclusionsAltogether, these results identify PS and PD as novel ICD inducers that could be effectively combined with PDT in cancer therapy.