PHOTODYNAMIC THERAPY IS under intense investigation as a possible adjuvant for the treatment of malignant tumors of the central nervous system. It relies on the fact that photosensitizers are selectively taken up or retained by malignant tissue. However, most brain tumors are accompanied by substantial vasogenic edema as a consequence of blood-brain barrier disruption within the tumor, leading to extravasation and propagation of plasma constituents into the surrounding brain tissue. Systemically administered photosensitizers may enter healthy tissue together with the edema fluid, possibly leading to sensitization of tissues outside the tumor. To test this hypothesis, vasogenic edema was induced by cold injury to the cortex in rats. The edema thus obtained is highly reproducible and very similar to tumor-associated edema. Just after injury induction, Photofrin II (PF-II), a commonly used photosensitizing agent, was administered at a dose of 5 mg per kilogram of body weight along with fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled albumin to mark edema advancement. After 1, 4, 12, or 24 hours, the brains were removed and frozen, and cryosections were studied with high-sensitivity video fluorescence microscopy for edema extravasation within the lesion and propagation of PF-II into the surrounding gray matter. PF-II advanced with edema along the corpus callosum underlying the cortex to a distance of 5 mm from the lesion after 4 hours. With the exception of the lesion, PF-II fluorescence returned to baseline after 24 hours, indicating subsequent washout. Propagation was comparable to the spreading of FITC-marked albumin. The authors conclude that photosensitizers spread with edema, an observation that may be pertinent to a number of questions concerning photodynamic therapy of cerebral tumors.