Photothermal-chemotherapy with doxorubicin-loaded hollow gold nanospheres: A platform for near-infrared light-trigged drug release

Jian You, Rui Zhang, Guodong Zhang, Meng Zhong, Yang Liu, Carolyn S. Van Pelt, Dong Liang, Wei Wei, Anil K. Sood, Chun Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

191 Scopus citations


Photothermal ablation (PTA) is an emerging technique that uses near-infrared (NIR) laser light-generated heat to destroy tumor cells. However, complete eradication of tumor cells with PTA is difficult because of uneven heat distribution in the treatment volume. We hypothesized that combining PTA with chemotherapy using a single multifunctional nanoconstruct that mediates simultaneous photothermal cell killing and drug release (photothermal- chemotherapy) would result in enhanced antitumor activity and reduced toxicity compared to chemotherapy alone. Doxorubicin (DOX) was loaded to hollow gold nanospheres (HAuNS) coated with polyethylene glycol (PEG). The pharmacokinetics and biodistribution of both DOX and HAuNS in the resulting nanoconstruct, DOX@PEG-HAuNS having different DOX:PEG:HAuNS ratios, were evaluated using dual isotope labeling techniques. The antitumor activity of DOX@PEG-HAuNS with DOX:PEG:HAuNS weight ratio of 1:3:1 (NP3) in combination with NIR laser was studied in vitro and in vivo using human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer and A2780 ovarian cancer cells. In vitro, NP3 mediated PTA of both cancer cells and DOX release upon NIR laser treatment. In vivo, NP3 showed slower clearance in blood and greater accumulation in tumors than free DOX. NP3-plus-NIR laser demonstrated greater antitumor activity than free DOX, NP3, or liposomal DOX. Moreover, NP3 displayed significantly decreased systemic toxicity compared to free DOX or liposomal DOX. Enhanced antitumor effect with NP3-plus-laser can be attributed to both the cytotoxic effect of DOX released from NP3 and the photothermal effect mediated by HAuNS. Slow release of DOX from NP3 in normal tissues contributed to reduced systemic toxicity. Photothermal-chemotherapy exemplified by a single-agent nanoconstruct NP3 is a promising approach to anticancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-328
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2012


  • Doxorubicin
  • Near-infrared light
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Photothermal ablation therapy
  • Triggered release

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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