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Sensitive detection and apoptotic cell death induction of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) cells with photodynamic actions

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Adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is an aggressive malignant disease of CD4 positive T lymphocytes caused by infection with human T cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I). HTLV-1 causes ATL in 3-5% of infected individuals after a long latent period of 40 to 60 years. The acute and lymphoma types are aggressive ATL characterized by resistance to chemotherapy and a poor prognosis. Leukemia/lymphoma cells and rapidly proliferating cells preferentially accumulate endogenous photosensitizer protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) when supplemented with 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA). Treatment with 1mM ALA for 48h induced 10 to 100 times accumulation of PpIX in ATL leukemic cell lines and HTLV-I (+) T cell lines than that in healthy PBMCs. Specific induction of apoptosis was observed after 10 min light exposure (28 mW/cm2) using Na-Li lamp in ATL leukemic cell lines and HTLV-I (+) T cell lines. ATL patient PBMC specimen showed strong accumulation of PpIX with the treatment of ALA compared to the healthy donor and HTLV-I carrier PBMCs, which could be useful for the diagnostic purposes and monitoring the patient status with high sensitivity. Photodynamic therapy is potentially hopeful treatment especially for lymphoma type ATL as a relatively selective, minimal or no scarring, non-invasive, safe, simultaneous and repeatable multiple lesions treatable modality.

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Correspondence to Takashi Oka.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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About this article


  • Photodynamic Action
  • Lymphoma Type
  • Cell Leukemia Virus Type
  • Endogenous Photosensitizer
  • Patient PBMC