Molecularly targeted gold nanoparticles enhance the radiation response of breast cancer cells and tumor xenografts to X-radiation

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Jan;137(1):81-91. doi: 10.1007/s10549-012-2338-4. Epub 2012 Nov 18.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of molecularly targeted gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) on tumor radiosensitization both in vitro and in vivo. Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-2 (HER-2)-targeted AuNPs (Au-T) were synthesized by conjugating trastuzumab (Herceptin) to 30 nm AuNPs. In vitro, the cytotoxicity of Au-T or non-targeted AuNPs (Au-P) was assessed by γ-H2AX immunofluorescence microscopy for DNA damage and clonogenic survival assays. In vivo, athymic mice bearing subcutaneous MDA-MB-361 xenografts were treated with a single dose of 11 Gy of 100 kVp X-rays 24 h after intratumoral injection of Au-T (~0.8 mg of Au) or no X-radiation. Normal tissue toxicity was determined by hematology or biochemistry parameters. The combination of Au-P or Au-T with X-ray exposure increased the formation of γ-H2AX foci by 1.7 (P = 0.054) and 3.3 (P = 0.024) fold in comparison to X-radiation alone, respectively. The clonogenic survival of cells exposed to Au-T and X-rays was significantly lower from that of cells exposed to X-radiation alone, which translated to a dose enhancement factor of 1.6. In contrast, survival of cells exposed to Au-P and X-rays versus X-radiation alone were not significantly different. In vivo, the combination of Au-T and X-radiation resulted in regression of MDA-MB-361 tumors by 46 % as compared to treatment with X-radiation (16.0 % increase in tumor volume). No significant normal tissue toxicity was observed. Radiosensitization of breast cancer to X-radiation with AuNPs was successfully achieved with an optimized therapeutic strategy of molecular targeting of HER-2 and intratumoral administration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • Female
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Radiation Tolerance / drug effects*
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / chemistry
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / toxicity
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Tumor Burden / radiation effects
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • H2AX protein, human
  • Histones
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Gold
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2