Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a promising avenue for greater treatment efficacy of highly resistant and aggressive melanoma. Through photosensitizer attachment to nanoparticles, specificity of delivery can be conferred to further reduce potential side effects. While the main focus of PDT is the destruction of cancer cells, additional targeting of tumor-associated macrophages also present in the tumor microenvironment could further enhance treatment by eliminating their role in processes such as invasion, metastasis, and immunosuppression. In this study, we investigated PDT of macrophages and tumor cells through delivery using the natural noninfectious nanoparticle cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV), which has been shown to have specificity for the immunosuppressive subpopulation of macrophages and also targets cancer cells. We further explored conjugation of CPMV/dendron hybrids in order to improve the drug loading capacity of the nanocarrier. Overall, we demonstrated effective elimination of both macrophage and tumor cells at low micromolar concentrations of the photosensitizer when delivered with the CPMV bioconjugate, thereby potentially improving melanoma treatment.
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