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Thayer School of Engineering


Despite substantial drug development efforts, pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains a difficult disease to treat, and surgical resection is the only potentially curative option. Unfortunately, 80% of patients are ineligible for surgery due to the presence of invasive disease and/or distant metastases at the time of diagnosis. Treatment strategies geared towards reclassifying these patients as surgical candidates by reducing metastatic burden represents the most promising approach to improve long-term survival. We describe a photodynamic therapy (PDT) based approach that, in combination with the first-line chemotherapeutic nab-paclitaxel, effectively addresses distant metastases in three separate orthotopic PDAC models in immunodeficient mice. In addition to effectively controlling local tumor growth, PDT plus nab-paclitaxel primes the tumor to elicit systemic effects and reduce or abrogate metastases. This combination dramatically inhibits (up to 100%) the eventual development of metastases in models of early stage PDAC, and completely eliminates metastasis in 55% of animals with already established distant disease in late-stage models. Our findings suggest that this light activation process initiates local biological and/or physiological changes within the tumor microenvironment that can be leveraged to treat both localized and distant disease, and potentially reclassify patients with previously inoperable disease as surgical candidates.



Original Citation

Pigula, M.; Mai, Z.; Anbil, S.; Choi, M.-G.; Wang, K.; Maytin, E.; Pogue, B.; Hasan, T. Dramatic Reduction of Distant Pancreatic Metastases Using Local Light Activation of Verteporfin with Nab-Paclitaxel. Cancers 2021, 13, 5781.