Intracellular gold nanoparticles enhance non-invasive radiofrequency thermal destruction of human gastrointestinal cancer cells

Christopher J. Gannon, Chitta Ranjan Patra, Resham Bhattacharya, Priyabrata Mukherjee, Steven A. Curley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


Background: Novel approaches to treat human cancer that are effective with minimal toxicity profiles are needed. We evaluated gold nanoparticles (GNPs) in human hepatocellular and pancreatic cancer cells to determine: 1) absence of intrinsic cytotoxicity of the GNPs and 2) external radiofrequency (RF) field-induced heating of intracellular GNPs to produce thermal destruction of malignant cells. GNPs (5 nm diameter) were added to 2 human cancer cell lines (Panc-1, Hep3B). 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay and propidium iodide-fluorescence associated cell sorting (PI-FACS) assessed cell proliferation and GNP-related cytotoxicity. Other GNP-treated cells were exposed to a 13.56 MHz RF field for 1, 2, or 5 minutes, and then incubated for 24 hours. PI-FACS measured RF-induced cytotoxicity. Results: GNPs had no impact on cellular proliferation by MTT assay. PI-FACS confirmed that GNPs alone produced no cytotoxicity. A GNP dose-dependent RF-induced cytotoxicity was observed. For Hep3B cells treated with a 67 μM/L dose of GNPs, cytotoxicity at 1, 2 and 5 minutes of RF was 99.0%, 98.5%, and 99.8%. For Panc-1 cells treated at the 67 μM/L dose, cytotoxicity at 1, 2, and 5 minutes of RF was 98.5%, 98.7%, and 96.5%. Lower doses of GNPs were associated with significantly lower rates of RF-induced thermal cytotoxicity for each cell line (P < 0.01). Cells not treated with GNPs but treated with RF for identical time-points had less cytotoxicity (Hep3B: 17.6%, 21%, and 75%; Panc-1: 15.3%, 26.4%, and 39.8%, all P < 0.01). Conclusion: We demonstrate that GNPs 1) have no intrinsic cytotoxicity or anti-proliferative effects in two human cancer cell lines in vitro and 2) GNPs release heat in a focused external RF field. This RF-induced heat release is lethal to cancer cells bearing intracellular GNPs in vitro.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalJournal of Nanobiotechnology
StatePublished - Jan 30 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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