Nanoconjugates composed of drug molecules encapsulated in quantum dots (QDs) attract enormous attention due to their promising bioimaging and biomedical applications. Here, the anticancer efficiency of potential pharmacophore agents (o-carborane (Cb), o-carborane-C-carboxylic acid (Cbac1), and o-carborane-C(1)C(2)-dicarboxylic acid (Cbac2) coupling with cadmium telluride QDs capped with cysteamine (CA-CdTe QDs)) have been explored. Compared with free CA-CdTe QDs, the composites consisting of Cbac1/Cbac2 and safe-dosage QDs can greatly improve the inhibition efficiency toward SMMC-7721 hepatocellular carcinoma cells with the aid of our real-time cell bioelectronic sensing system and the MTT assay. The enhanced cytotoxicity correlates with increased intracellular reactive oxygen species generation and cell apoptosis. Confocal laser scanning fluorescent microscopy shows improved cellular uptake and drug distribution of the Cbac1/Cbac2-CdTe QDs nanoconjugates. This work raises the possibility that the carborane pharmacophore in combination with QDs or other anticancer drugs may be viable for efficient cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy.
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