Engineered algae: A novel oxygen-generating system for effective treatment of hypoxic cancer

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Science Advances  20 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 21, eaba5996
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba5996


Microalgae, a naturally present unicellular microorganism, can undergo light photosynthesis and have been used in biofuels, nutrition, etc. Here, we report that engineered live microalgae can be delivered to hypoxic tumor regions to increase local oxygen levels and resensitize resistant cancer cells to both radio- and phototherapies. We demonstrate that the hypoxic environment in tumors is markedly improved by in situ–generated oxygen through microalgae-mediated photosynthesis, resulting in notably radiotherapeutic efficacy. Furthermore, the chlorophyll from microalgae produces reactive oxygen species during laser irradiation, further augmenting the photosensitizing effect and enhancing tumor cell apoptosis. Thus, the sequential combination of oxygen-generating algae system with radio- and phototherapies has the potential to create an innovative treatment strategy to improve the outcome of cancer management. Together, our findings demonstrate a novel approach that leverages the products of photosynthesis for treatment of tumors and provide proof-of-concept evidence for future development of algae-enhanced radio- and photodynamic therapy.

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