Gadolinium-based nanoparticles as sensitizing agents to carbon ions in head and neck tumor cells

Nanomedicine. 2017 Nov;13(8):2655-2660. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2017.07.015. Epub 2017 Aug 2.


Hadrontherapy presents the major advantage of improving tumor sterilization while sparing surrounding healthy tissues because of the particular ballistic (Bragg peak) of carbon ions. However, its efficacy is still limited in the most resistant cancers, such as grade III-IV head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), in which the association of carbon ions with gadolinium-based nanoparticles (AGuIX®) could be used as a Trojan horse. We report for the first time the radioenhancing effect of AGuIX® when combined with carbon ion irradiation in human tumor cells. An increase in relative biological effectiveness (1.7) in three HNSCC cell lines (SQ20B, FaDu, and Cal33) was associated with a significant reduction in the radiation dose needed for killing cells. Radiosensitization goes through a higher number of unrepaired DNA double-strand breaks. These results underline the strong potential of AGuIX® in sensitizing aggressive tumors to hadrontherapy and, therefore, improving local control while lowering acute/late toxicity.

Keywords: Carbon ion irradiation; Gadolinium nanoparticles; Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC); Radiosensitization; Residual double-strand breaks.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gadolinium / therapeutic use*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nanoparticles / therapeutic use*
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Carbon
  • Gadolinium