Mary K Kilroy, Krista Lee Morford



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According to the Center for Disease Control, lung cancer is the leader form of cancer related deaths in the United States. While several treatment methods are in existence, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, there remains a high demand for an effective option that is localized and less invasive than current therapeutic options. One emerging option is photodynamic therapy (PDT) which selectively activates target, chemical compounds using light as specific wavelengths. PDT is a particularly attractive alternative for lung cancer as bronchial scopes would allow for delivery of the appropriate light directly to the tumor site. In this study a novel, ruthenium-based photosensitizer agent was synthesized, characterized, and underwent analysis as a potential PDT therapeutic against the human lung cancer model, A549. Following synthesis, the Ru-complex underwent characterization through high resolution mass spectrometry, UV-VIS, and cyclic voltammetry. Prior to cell exposure, the PDT potential of the Ru-complex was verified through light-induced cleavage to DNA. Upon irradiation the Ru-complex induced severe DNA damage through both single and double strand breaks. Next, the Ru-complex was introduced to the A549 culture, with the cytotoxicity measured in both dark and light-exposed conditions. As an effective PDT agent will demonstrate activity only following light exposure, the biocompatibility in the dark needed to be verified. Without light activation, the Ru-complex did not induce cellular death or substantial stress within the cellular model. Unfortunately, following a 15 minutes photo-stimulation using a 420 nm light source with a power density of 2.3 μW/cm2, no cytotoxicity was identified. Further investigations determined that the Ru-complex was not effectively associating with the A549 cells. Therefore, while Re-based complexes possess the potential to serve as PDT mediators, additional work is required to ensure that they are delivered to the target tumor site.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research - Undergraduate

Primary Advisor

Kristen K. Comfort, Shawn M. Swavey

Primary Advisor's Department

Chemical and Materials Engineering


Stander Symposium project

Synthesis and In Vitro Evaluation of a Ruthenium(II) Bipyridyl Complex as a Cancer Therapeutic