Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a potential synergistic approach to chemotherapy for treating ovarian cancer, the most lethal gynecologic malignancy. Here we used M13 bacteriophage as a targeted vector for the efficient photodynamic killing of SKOV3 and COV362 cells. The M13 phage was refactored (M13r) to display an EGFR binding peptide in its tip that is frequently overexpressed in ovarian cancer. The refactored phage was conjugated with chlorin e6 (Ce6), one of the most widely used photosensitizers (M13r-Ce6). The new platform, upon irradiation, generated ROS by type I mechanism and showed activity in killing SKOV3 and COV362 cells even at concentrations in which Ce6 alone was ineffective. A microscopy analysis demonstrated an enhanced cellular uptake of M13r-Ce6 compared to free Ce6 and its mitochondrial localization. Western blot analysis revealed significant downregulation in the expression of EGFR in cells exposed to M13r-Ce6 after PDT. Following PDT treatment, autophagy induction was supported by an increased expression of LC3II, along with a raised autophagic fluorescent signal, as observed by fluorescence microscopy analysis for autophagosome visualization. As a conclusion we have herein proposed a bacteriophage-based receptor targeted photodynamic therapy for EGFR-positive ovarian cancer.

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