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Unleashing the potential of 5-Aminolevulinic acid: Unveiling a promising target for cancer diagnosis and treatment beyond photodynamic therapy.

The therapeutic properties of 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) have been extensively studied for cancer detection and treatment using photodynamic therapy (PDT). When administered externally, 5-ALA is converted to protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) in cancer cells, which generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) upon exposure to light. This process enables targeted cell death induction and cancer detection. Given the highly conserved nature of heme biosynthesis over billions of years, we hypothesized that natural mechanisms might exist to prevent excessive accumulation of PpIX or heme resulting from 5-ALA overload. Therefore, we anticipated alterations in protein expression profiles upon exogenous administration of 5-ALA. To understand cellular responses to 5-ALA, we investigated protein expression changes and identified OR1B1 as a promising target in bladder, prostate, lung, and cervical cancer cells. OR1B1 expression was observed only with 5-ALA and ferrous chloride, highlighting the central role of heme in this discovery. Immunofluorescence and electron microscopy confirmed OR1B1's sub-cellular localization. These findings suggest that 5-ALA transformation in cancer cells and OR1B1 expression have potential for enhancing cancer detection and developing alternative treatments, including immunotherapy. This approach overcomes the limitations of PDT and opens new avenues for effective and targeted cancer interventions.

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