The phthalocyanines are promising second-generation photosensitizers that are being evaluated for the photodynamic therapy (PDT) of malignant tumors. In vivo studies with the silicon phthalocyanine Pc 4 have shown that it is highly effective at causing regression of RIF-1 tumors in C3H/HeN mice in PDT protocols. Because cutaneous photosensitivity is the major complication of photosensitizers used for PDT, experiments were performed to evaluate the effect of inhibitors of the inflammatory response (cyproheptadine, dexamethasone, pentoxifylline, and tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α] antibodies) on Pc 4-induced cutaneous photosensitivity and tumor regression. The C3H/HeN mice were injected with either Pc 4 or Photofrin and were exposed to 86 J/cm2 of filtered radiation emitted from a solar simulator. Animals were irradiated at 1, 3, 7, 10, 14 and 28 days postinjection. Cutaneous photosensitivity was assessed using the murine ear-swelling response. Cyproheptadine, dexamethasone, pentoxifylline and TNF-α antibodies were administered prior to illumination to assess their ability to block Pc 4-induced cutaneous photosensitivity and to evaluate whether such treatment adversely influenced Pc 4 PDT-induced tumor regression. Compared to Photofrin, Pc 4 produced cutaneous photosensitivity that was transient, resolving within 24 h, and that could be elicited for only 10 days after administration. In contrast, Photofrin caused photosensitivity that required 4 days to resolve and could be elicited for at least 1 month after it was administered. The Pc 4-induced cutaneous photosensitivity could be blocked by corticosteroids and an inhibitor of vasoactive amines (cyproheptadine). The TNF-α gene transcription was found to increase in keratinocytes following treatment with Pc 4 and light. The anti-TNF-α antibodies and pentoxifylline, an inhibitor of cytokine transcription, also prevented cutaneous photosensitivity, implicating TNF-α in the pathogenesis of Pc 4-induced cutaneous photosensitivity. None of these agents had any effect on Pc 4 PDT-induced tumor regression. Cyproheptadine, dexamethasone, pentoxifylline and TNF-α antibodies may be valuable pharmacologic agents in the management of cutaneous photosensitivity associated with PDT without altering the efficacy of this new therapeutic modality. The findings suggest that it should be possible to devise PDT protocols that block cutaneous photosensitivity without impairing the anti-tumor response to the agents.