Prodrugs of 5-Aminolevullinic Acid for Photodynamic Therapy


To whom correspondence should be addressed at: Department of Medicinal Photochemistry. LeideniAmsterdam Center for Drug Research, Leiden University. P.O. Box 9502, NL-2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands. Fax: +31715274537;email:


Abstract— The use of 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) as a protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) precursor for photodynamic therapy (PDT) became very popular in a short time. However, despite its advantages, ALA also has a drawback; it shows a poor ability to diffuse through biological membranes because of its low Iipophilicity. As a consequence, a high dose of ALA must be administered in order to increase PpIX in the afflicted tissue at a level sufficient for PDT. A possible solution to this problem is the use of derivatives of ALA. ALA prodrugs are expected to have better diffusing properties as a result of their enhanced Jipophilicity and are converted into the parent ALA after enzymatic hydrolysis. In this report, results are presented of the synthesis of a number of ALA derivatives. The ALA prodmgs were investigated regarding the optimum conditions for cell penetration and PPIX formation in an in vitro cellular test system. It is shown that several prod· rugs do indeed enhance the amount of accumulated PPIX considerably as compared to ALA. Finally, the most promising prodrugs were tested in an animal model and showed increased PPIX formation under these conditionsas well.