Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a technique developed to treat the ever-increasing global incidence of cancer. This technique utilises singlet oxygen (1O2) generation via a laser excited photosensitiser (PS) to kill cancer cells. However, prolonged sensitivity to intensive light (6–8 weeks for lung cancer), relatively low tissue penetration by activating light (630 nm up to 4 mm), and the cost of PS administration can limit progressive PDT applications. The development of quantum-dot laser diodes emitting in the highest absorption region (1268 nm) of triplet oxygen (3O2) presents the possibility of inducing apoptosis in tumour cells through direct 3O2 → 1O2 transition. Here we demonstrate that a single laser pulse triggers dose-dependent 1O2 generation in both normal keratinocytes and tumour cells and show that tumour cells yield the highest 1O2 far beyond the initial laser pulse exposure. Our modelling and experimental results support the development of direct infrared (IR) laser-induced tumour treatment as a promising approach in tumour PDT.