Near-infrared photoimmunotherapy (NIR-PIT) is a novel phototherapy for the treatment of cancer that uses NIR light and conjugates of antibody-IR700, a silicon phthalocyanine photosensitizer. A key feature of NIR-PIT is light-induced axial ligand cleavage of IR700, which finally causes cytotoxicity. Here, we focused on protonation of the axial ligand on the IR700 anion radical during the photochemical process. The Gibbs energy in the protonation reaction of IR700 derivatives with different axial ligands was calculated. These calculations suggested the order of the cleavage efficiency corresponds to the basicity of the axial ligand (i.e. alkoxy > siloxy (IR700) > phenoxy ≈ oxycarbonyl), which was confirmed by the photoirradiation experiments with synthesized compounds. Thus, axial ligand cleavage is significantly dependent on the basicity of the axial ligand. Our findings suggest that PIT reagent with an IR700 derivative bearing alkoxy group would show better efficacy than IR700.