Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment for cancer and for certain benign conditions that is based on the use of a photosensitizer and light to produce reactive oxygen species in cells. Many of the photosensitizers currently used in PDT localize in different cell compartments such as mitochondria, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticulum and generate cell death by triggering necrosis and/or apoptosis. Efficient cell death is observed when light, oxygen and the photosensitizer are not limiting ("high dose PDT"). When one of these components is limiting ("low dose PDT"), most of the cells do not immediately undergo apoptosis or necrosis but are growth arrested with several transduction pathways activated. This commentary will review the mechanism of apoptosis and growth arrest mediated by two important PDT agents, i.e. pyropheophorbide and hypericin.