Gold Nanoparticle Enhanced Proton Therapy: Monte Carlo Modeling of Reactive Species' Distributions Around a Gold Nanoparticle and the Effects of Nanoparticle Proximity and Clustering

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 1;20(17):4280. doi: 10.3390/ijms20174280.


Gold nanoparticles (GNPs) are promising radiosensitizers with the potential to enhance radiotherapy. Experiments have shown GNP enhancement of proton therapy and indicated that chemical damage by reactive species plays a major role. Simulations of the distribution and yield of reactive species from 10 ps to 1 µs produced by a single GNP, two GNPs in proximity and a GNP cluster irradiated with a proton beam were performed using the Geant4 Monte Carlo toolkit. It was found that the reactive species distribution at 1 µs extended a few hundred nm from a GNP and that the largest enhancement occurred over 50 nm from the nanoparticle. Additionally, the yield for two GNPs in proximity and a GNP cluster was reduced by up to 17% and 60% respectively from increased absorption. The extended range of action from the diffusion of the reactive species may enable simulations to model GNP enhanced proton therapy. The high levels of absorption for a large GNP cluster suggest that smaller clusters and diffuse GNP distributions maximize the total radiolysis yield within a cell. However, this must be balanced against the high local yields near a cluster particularly if the cluster is located adjacent to a biological target.

Keywords: Monte Carlo; clustering; nanoparticles; proton therapy; radiolysis; radiosensitization.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gold*
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Metal Nanoparticles / therapeutic use*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Proton Therapy*
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / therapeutic use


  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Gold