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Int J Nanomedicine. 2017 Aug 26;12:6259-6272. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S141164. eCollection 2017.

Photothermal ablation of inflammatory breast cancer tumor emboli using plasmonic gold nanostars.

Author information

Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics, Duke University.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University.
Duke University School of Medicine.
Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic, Maxillofacial, and Oral Surgery, Duke University Medical Center.
Department of Chemistry, Duke University.
Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Sciences.
Duke Cancer Institute, Women's Cancer Program, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, USA.
Contributed equally


Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is rare, but it is the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer. IBC has a unique presentation of diffuse tumor cell clusters called tumor emboli in the dermis of the chest wall that block lymph vessels causing a painful, erythematous, and edematous breast. Lack of effective therapeutic treatments has caused mortality rates of this cancer to reach 20%-30% in case of women with stage III-IV disease. Plasmonic nanoparticles, via photothermal ablation, are emerging as lead candidates in next-generation cancer treatment for site-specific cell death. Plasmonic gold nanostars (GNS) have an extremely large two-photon luminescence cross-section that allows real-time imaging through multiphoton microscopy, as well as superior photothermal conversion efficiency with highly concentrated heating due to its tip-enhanced plasmonic effect. To effectively study the use of GNS as a clinically plausible treatment of IBC, accurate three-dimensional (3D) preclinical models are needed. Here, we demonstrate a unique in vitro preclinical model that mimics the tumor emboli structures assumed by IBC in vivo using IBC cell lines SUM149 and SUM190. Furthermore, we demonstrate that GNS are endocytosed into multiple cancer cell lines irrespective of receptor status or drug resistance and that these nanoparticles penetrate the tumor embolic core in 3D culture, allowing effective photothermal ablation of the IBC tumor emboli. These results not only provide an avenue for optimizing the diagnostic and therapeutic application of GNS in the treatment of IBC but also support the continuous development of 3D in vitro models for investigating the efficacy of photothermal therapy as well as to further evaluate photothermal therapy in an IBC in vivo model.


gold nanostars; hyperthermia; inflammatory breast cancer; nanoparticles; photothermal therapy; plasmonics

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