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A novel theranostic gold nanorods- and Adriamycin-loaded micelle for EpCAM targeting, laser ablation, and photoacoustic imaging of cancer stem cells in hepatocellular carcinoma

Authors Locatelli E, Li Y, Monaco I, Guo W, Maturi M, Menichetti L, Armanetti P, Martin RC, Comes Franchini M

Received 6 December 2018

Accepted for publication 9 February 2019

Published 13 March 2019 Volume 2019:14 Pages 1877—1892


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Cristina Weinberg

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Thomas J Webster

Erica Locatelli,1,* Yan Li,2,* Ilaria Monaco,1 Wei Guo,3 Mirko Maturi,1 Luca Menichetti,4 Paolo Armanetti,4 Robert C Martin,2 Mauro Comes Franchini1

1Department of Industrial Chemistry “Toso Montanari”, Bologna, Italy; 2Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA; 3Department of Hematology, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China; 4Institute of Clinical Physiology, National Research Council (CNR), Pisa, Italy

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Introduction and purpose: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) present a higher capacity to evade being killed by cancer agents and developing chemoresistance, thus leading to failure of conventional anticancer therapeutics. Nanomaterials specifically designed for targeting and treating not only tumor cells, but also CSCs, may encompass therapeutic and diagnostic tools, thus successfully eradicating the tumor.
Materials and methods: Polymeric micelles simultaneously loaded with gold nanorods (GNRs) and Adriamycin were prepared and used as a novel therapeutic and diagnostic weapon. Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is an important CSC surface marker and has been exploited in this work as an active targeting agent. Photoacoustic imaging was applied for GNR individuation and tissue recognition.
Results: The nanosystem was demonstrated to be able to elicit effective targeting of cancer cells and cause their killing, in particular under laser ablation. Moreover, ex vivo photoacoustic imaging is able to clearly identify tumor regions thanks to GNR’s contrast.
Conclusion: The nanosystem can be considered a powerful and promising theranostic weapon for hepatocellular carcinoma treatment.

Keywords: gold nanorods, drug delivery, photoacoustic imaging, photothermal therapy, EpCAM, cancer stem cells

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