Design considerations for tumour-targeted nanoparticles

Nat Nanotechnol. 2010 Jan;5(1):42-7. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2009.314. Epub 2009 Nov 1.


Inorganic/organic hybrid nanoparticles are potentially useful in biomedicine, but to avoid non-specific background fluorescence and long-term toxicity, they need to be cleared from the body within a reasonable timescale. Previously, we have shown that rigid spherical nanoparticles such as quantum dots can be cleared by the kidneys if they have a hydrodynamic diameter of approximately 5.5 nm and a zwitterionic surface charge. Here, we show that quantum dots functionalized with high-affinity small-molecule ligands that target tumours can also be cleared by the kidneys if their hydrodynamic diameter is less than this value, which sets an upper limit of 5-10 ligands per quantum dot for renal clearance. Animal models of prostate cancer and melanoma show receptor-specific imaging and renal clearance within 4 h post-injection. This study suggests a set of design rules for the clinical translation of targeted nanoparticles that can be eliminated through the kidneys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Cadmium Compounds / chemistry
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Fluorescence
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II / analysis
  • Humans
  • Integrin alphaV / analysis
  • Integrin beta3 / analysis
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Mice
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Quantum Dots*
  • Selenium Compounds / chemistry
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Cadmium Compounds
  • Integrin alphaV
  • Integrin beta3
  • Selenium Compounds
  • cadmium selenide
  • FOLH1 protein, human
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II