Photoresponsive Nanocarriers Based on Lithium Niobate Nanoparticles for Harmonic Imaging and On-Demand Release of Anticancer Chemotherapeutics

ACS Nanosci Au. 2022 Aug 17;2(4):355-366. doi: 10.1021/acsnanoscienceau.1c00044. Epub 2022 Jun 3.


Nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems have the potential for increasing the efficiency of chemotherapeutics by enhancing the drug accumulation at specific target sites, thereby reducing adverse side effects and mitigating patient acquired resistance. In particular, photo-responsive nanomaterials have attracted much interest due to their ability to release molecular cargos on demand upon light irradiation. In some settings, they can also provide complementary information by optical imaging on the (sub)cellular scale. We herein present a system based on lithium niobate harmonic nanoparticles (LNO HNPs) for the decoupled multi-harmonic cell imaging and near-infrared light-triggered delivery of an erlotinib derivative (ELA) for the treatment of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-overexpressing carcinomas. The ELA cargo was covalently conjugated to the surface of silica-coated LNO HNPs through a coumarinyl photo-cleavable linker, achieving a surface loading of the active molecule of 27 nmol/mg NPs. The resulting nanoconjugates (LNO-CM-ELA NPs) were successfully imaged upon pulsed laser excitation at 1250 nm in EGFR-overexpressing human prostate cancer cells DU145 by detecting the second harmonic emission at 625 nm, in the tissue transparency window. Tuning the laser at 790 nm resulted in the uncaging of the ELA cargo as a result of the second harmonic emission of the inorganic HNP core at 395 nm. This protocol induced a significant growth inhibition in DU145 cells, which was only observed upon specific irradiation at 790 nm, highlighting the promising capabilities of LNO-CM-ELA NPs for theranostic applications.