In-Situ Formation of Holmium Oxide in Pores of Mesoporous Carbon Nanoparticles as Substrates for Neutron-Activatable Radiotherapeutics

Carbon N Y. 2017 Jun;117:92-99. doi: 10.1016/j.carbon.2017.02.085. Epub 2017 Feb 27.


Radionuclide therapy with nano-sized carriers is a very promising approach to treat various types of cancer. The preparation of radioactive nanocarriers can be achieved with minimum handling using a neutron-activation approach. However, the nanocarrier material must possess certain characteristics such as low density, heat-resistance, high metal adsorption, easy surface modification and low toxicity in order to be useful. Mesoporous Carbon Nanoparticles (MCNs) in which holmium oxide is formed in their pores by a wet-impregnation process are investigated as a suitable material for this application. Holmium (165Ho) has a natural abundance of 100% and possesses a large cross-section for capturing thermal neutrons. After irradiation of Ho-containing MCNs in a neutron flux, 166Ho, which emits therapeutic high energy beta particles as well as diagnostic low energy gamma photons that can be imaged externally, is produced. The wet impregnation process (16 w/w% Ho loading) is shown to completely prevent the leaching of radioactive holmium from the MCNs without compromising their structural integrity. In vitro studies showed that the MCNs containing non-radioactive holmium do not exhibit toxicity and the same formulation with radioactive holmium (166Ho) demonstrated a tumoricidal effect. Post-irradiation PEGylation of the MCN surfaces endows dispersibility and biocompatibility.