Rational design of iridium–porphyrin conjugates for novel synergistic photodynamic and photothermal therapy anticancer agents

Near-infrared (NIR) emitters are important probes for biomedical applications. Nanoparticles (NPs) incorporating mono- and tetranuclear iridium(III) complexes attached to a porphyrin core have been synthesized. They possess deep-red absorbance, long-wavelength excitation (635 nm) and NIR emission (720 nm). TD-DFT calculations demonstrate that the iridium–porphyrin conjugates herein combine the respective advantages of small organic molecules and transition metal complexes as photosensitizers (PSs): (i) the conjugates retain the long-wavelength excitation and NIR emission of porphyrin itself; (ii) the conjugates possess highly effective intersystem crossing (ISC) to obtain a considerably more long-lived triplet photoexcited state. These photoexcited states do not have the usual radiative behavior of phosphorescent Ir(III) complexes, and they play a very important role in promoting the singlet oxygen (1O2) and heat generation required for photodynamic therapy (PDT) and photothermal therapy (PTT). The tetranuclear 4-Ir NPs exhibit high 1O2 generation ability, outstanding photothermal conversion efficiency (49.5%), good biocompatibility, low half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) (0.057 μM), excellent photothermal imaging and synergistic PDT and PTT under 635 nm laser irradiation. To our knowledge this is the first example of iridium–porphyrin conjugates as PSs for photothermal imaging-guided synergistic PDT and PTT treatment in vivo.
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