Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a significant role in tumor progression within the tumor microenvironment. Previously, we used near-infrared photoimmunotherapy (NIR-PIT), a next-generation cancer cell-targeted phototherapy, to establish CAF-targeted NIR-PIT. In this study, we investigated whether dual-targeted NIR-PIT, targeting cancer cells and CAFs, could be a therapeutic strategy. A total of 132 cases of esophageal cancer were analyzed for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2), and fibroblast activation protein (FAP) expression using immunohistochemistry. Human esophageal cancer cells and CAFs were co-cultured and treated with single- or dual-targeted NIR-PIT in vitro. These cells were co-inoculated into BALB/c-nu/nu mice and the tumors were treated with single-targeted NIR-PIT or dual-targeted NIR-PIT in vivo. Survival analysis showed FAP- or EGFR-high patients had worse survival than patients with low expression of FAP or EGFR (log-rank, P < 0.001 and P = 0.074, respectively), while no difference was observed in HER2 status. In vitro, dual (EGFR/FAP)-targeted NIR-PIT induced specific therapeutic effects in cancer cells and CAFs along with suppressing tumor growth in vivo, whereas single-targeted NIR-PIT did not show any significance. Moreover, these experiments demonstrated that dual-targeted NIR-PIT could treat cancer cells and CAFs simultaneously with a single NIR light irradiation. We demonstrated the relationship between EGFR/FAP expression and prognosis of patients with esophageal cancer and the stronger therapeutic effect of dual-targeted NIR-PIT than single-targeted NIR-PIT in experimental models. Thus, dual-targeted NIR-PIT might be a promising therapeutic strategy for cancer treatment.
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