Modulation of gold nanoparticle mediated radiation dose enhancement through synchronization of breast tumor cell population

Br J Radiol. 2019 Aug;92(1100):20190283. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20190283. Epub 2019 Jul 2.


Objective: The incorporation of high atomic number materials such as gold nanoparticles (GNPs) into tumor cells is being tested to enhance the local radiotherapy (RT) dose. It is also known that the radiosensitivity of tumor cells depends on the phase of their cell cycle. Triple combination of GNPs, phase of tumor cell population, and RT for improved outcomes in cancer treatment.

Methods: We used a double-thymidine block method for synchronization of the tumor cell population. GNPs of diameters 17 and 46 nm were used to capture the size dependent effects. A radiation dose of 2 Gy with 6 MV linear accelerator was used to assess the efficacy of this proposed combined treatment. A triple negative breast cancer cell line, MDA-MB-231 was chosen as the model cell line. Monte Carlo (MC) calculations were done to predict the GNP-mediated cell death using the experimental GNP uptake data.

Results: There was a 1.5- and 2- fold increase in uptake of 17 and 46 nm GNPs in the synchronized cell population, respectively. A radiation dose of 2 Gy with clinically relevant 6 MV photons resulted in a 62 and 38 % enhancement in cell death in the synchronized cell population with the incorporation of 17 and 46 nm GNPs, respectively. MC data supported the experimental data, but to a lesser extent.

Conclusion: A triple combination of GNPs, cell cycle synchronization, and RT could pave the way to enhance the local radiation dose while minimizing side effects to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Advances in knowledge: This is the first study to show that the combined use of GNPs, phase of tumor cell population, and RT could enhance tumor cell death.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gold / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Gold