Photodynamic therapy (PDT) with low light fluence rate has rarely been studied in protocols that use short drug–light intervals and thus deliver illumination while plasma concentrations of photosensitizer are high, creating a prominent vascular response. In this study, the effects of light fluence rate on PDT response were investigated using motexafin lutetium (10 mg/kg) in combination with 730 nm light and a 180-min drug–light interval. At 180 min, the plasma level of photosensitizer was 5.7 ng/μl compared to 3.1 ng/mg in RIF tumor, and PDT-mediated vascular effects were confirmed by a spasmodic decrease in blood flow during illumination. Light delivery at 25 mW/cm2 significantly improved long-term tumor responses over that at 75 mW/cm2. This effect could not be attributed to oxygen conservation at low fluence rate, because 25 mW/cm2 PDT provided little benefit to tumor hemoglobin oxygen saturation. However, 25 mW/cm2 PDT did prolong the duration of ischemic insult during illumination and was correspondingly associated with greater decreases in perfusion immediately after PDT, followed by smaller increases in total hemoglobin concentration in the hours after PDT. Increases in blood volume suggest blood pooling from suboptimal vascular damage; thus the smaller increases after 25 mW/cm2 PDT provide evidence of more widespread vascular damage, which was accompanied by greater decreases in clonogenic survival. Further study of low fluence rate as a means to improve responses to PDT under conditions designed to predominantly damage vasculature is warranted.

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