Rationally Designed Long-Wavelength Absorbing Ru(II) Polypyridyl Complexes as Photosensitizers for Photodynamic Therapy

The utilization of Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for the treatment of various types of cancer has gained increasing attention over the last decades. Despite the clinical success of approved photosensitizers (PSs), their application is limited due to poor water solubility, aggregation, photodegradation, and slow clearance from the body. To overcome these drawbacks, research efforts are devoted towards the development of metal complexes and especially Ru(II) polypyridine complexes based on their attractive photophysical and biological properties. Despite the recent research developments, the vast majority of complexes utilize blue or UV-A light to obtain a PDT effect, limiting the penetration depth inside the tissue and therefore, the possibility to treat deep-seated or large tumors. To circumvent these drawbacks, we present the first example of the DFT guided search for efficient PDT PSs with a substantial spectral red shift towards the biological spectral window. Thanks to this design, we have unveiled a Ru(II) polypyridine complex, which causes phototoxicity in the very-low micromolar-to-nanomolar range at clinically relevant 595 nm, in monolayer cells as well as in 3D multicellular tumor spheroids.