Materials Chemistry

Bioorthogonal Photo-Catalytic Activation of an Anti-Cancer Prodrug by Riboflavin


  • Xin Yang South China University of Technology ,
  • Limin Ma Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital ,
  • Hongwei Shao Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital ,
  • Xia Ling South China University of Technology ,
  • Mengyu Yao Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital ,
  • Guowen Luo Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital ,
  • Gloria Mazzone Department of Chemistry and Chemical Technologies, Università della Calabria ,
  • Meng Gao South China University of Technology ,
  • Ben Zhong Tang The Chinese University of Hong Kong


Chemotherapies for cancer treatment usually suffer from poor targeting ability and serious side-effects. To improve the treatment efficiency and reduce side effects, photoactivatable chemotherapy has been recently proposed for precise cancer treatment with high spatiotemporal resolution. However, most photoactivatable prodrugs require decoration by stoichiometric photo-cleavable groups, which are only responsive to ultraviolet irradiation and suffer from low reaction efficiency. To tackle these challenges, we herein propose a bioorthogonal photo-catalytic activation strategy with riboflavin as the catalyst for in situ transformation of prodrug dihydrochelerythrine (DHCHE) prodrug into anti-cancer drug chelerythrine (CHE), which can efficiently kill cancer cells and inhibit in vivo tumor growth under light irradiation. Meanwhile, the photo-catalytic transformation from DHCHE into CHE can be in situ monitored by green-to-red fluorescence conversion, which can be used for precise control of the therapeutic dose. We believe this imaging-guided bioorthogonal photo-catalytic strategy is promising for cancer treatment in clinical applications.


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