5-Aminolevulinic acid-based photodynamic therapy (ALA-PDT) was first implemented over three decades ago and has since been mainly part of clinical practice for the management of pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions. Photodynamic therapy relies on the combination of a photosensitizer, light and oxygen to cause photo-oxidative damage of cellular components. 5-Aminolevulinic acid (ALA) is a natural precursor of the heme biosynthetic pathway, which when exogenously administered leads to the accumulation of the photoactivatable protoporphyrin IX. Although, effective and providing excellent cosmetic outcomes, its use has been restricted by the burning, stinging, and prickling sensation associated with treatment, as well as cutaneous adverse reactions that may be induced. Despite intense research in the realm of drug delivery, pain moderation, and light delivery, a novel protocol design using sunlight has led to some of the best results in terms of treatment response and patient satisfaction. Daylight PDT is the protocol of choice for the management of treatment of multiple or confluent actinic keratoses (AK) skin lesions. This review aims to revisit the photophysical, physicochemical and biological characteristics of ALA-PDT, and the underlying mechanisms resulting in daylight PDT efficiency and limitations.
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