We report on an investigation aimed to increase the efficiency of photodynamic therapy (PDT) through the influence of localized surface plasmon resonances (LSPR's) in metal nanoparticles. PDT is based on photosensitizers that generate singlet oxygen at the tumour site upon exposure to visible light. Although PDT is a well-established treatment for skin cancer, a major drawback is the low quantum yield for singlet-oxygen production. This motivates the development of novel methods that enhance singlet oxygen generation during treatment. In this context, we study the photodynamic effect on cultured human skin cells in the presence or absence of gold nanoparticles with well established LSPR and field-enhancement properties. The cultured skin cells were exposed to protoporphyrin IX and gold nanoparticles and subsequently illuminated with red light. We investigated the differences in cell viability by tuning different parameters, such as incubation time and light dose. In order to find optimal parameters for specific targeting of tumour cells, we compared normal human epidermal keratinocytes with a human squamous skin cancer cell line. The study indicates significantly enhanced cell death in the presence of nanoparticles and important differences in treatment efficiency between normal and tumour cells. These results are thus promising and clearly motivate further development of nanoparticle enhanced clinical PDT treatment.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.