Targeted nanoparticles for tumour radiotherapy enhancement—the long dawn of a golden era?

Elisabetta Gargioni, Florian Schulz, Annette Raabe, Susanne Burdak-Rothkamm, Thorsten Rieckmann, Kai Rothkamm


Despite considerable progress in (I) our understanding of the aetiopathology of head and neck cancer and (II) the precise delivery of radiotherapy, long-term survival rates for many patients with head and neck cancer remain disappointingly low. Over the past years, gold nanoparticles (NP) have emerged as promising radiation dose enhancers. In a recent study published in Nanoscale, Popovtzer et al. have used gold NP coated with an antibody against the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in an attempt to enhance radiation-induced tumour cell killing in a head and neck cancer xenograft model. They report a significant impact of the combined treatment with radiation and gold NP on tumour growth and suggest an involvement of apoptosis, inhibition of angiogenesis and diminished tissue repair. In this perspective, we illustrate the underlying radiobiophysical concepts and discuss some of the challenges associated with this and related nanoparticle-radiotherapy studies from a physics, chemistry, biology and therapy angle. We conclude that strong interdisciplinary collaborations spanning all these areas are crucially important to proceed towards effective cancer treatment with gold NP “from bench to bedside”.