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Nanotheranostics. 2018 Jan 1;2(1):1-11. doi: 10.7150/ntno.22335. eCollection 2018.

Dual radiosensitization and anti-STAT3 anti-proliferative strategy based on delivery of gold nanoparticle - oligonucleotide nanoconstructs to head and neck cancer cells.

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Laboratory of Molecular Imaging Probes, Department of Radiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester MA, USA.
Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester MA, USA.


Constitutively activated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) factor is an important therapeutic target in head and neck cancer (HNC). Despite early promising results, a reliable systemic delivery system for STAT3- targeted oligonucleotide (ODN) drugs is still needed for future clinical translation of anti-STAT3 therapies. We engineered and tested a novel ODN duplex/gold nanoparticle (AuNP)-based system carrying a therapeutic STAT3 decoy (STAT3d) payload. This strategy is two-pronged because of the additive STAT3 antagonism and radiosensitizing properties of AuNP. The specificity to head and neck cancer cell surface was imparted by using a nucleolin aptamer (NUAP) that was linked to AuNP for taking the advantage of an aberrant presentation of a nuclear protein nucleolin on the cell surface. STAT3d and nucleolin aptamer constructs were independently linked to AuNPs via Au-S bonds. The synthesized AuNP constructs (AuNP-NUAP-STAT3d) exhibited internalization in cells that was quantified by using radiolabeled STAT3d. AuNP-NUAP-STAT3d showed radiosensitizing effect in human HNC FaDu cell culture experiments that resulted in an increase of cell DNA damage as determined by measuring γ-H2AX phosphorylation levels by flow cytometry. The radiosensitization study also demonstrated that AuNP-NUAP-STAT3d as well as STAT3d alone resulted in the efficient inhibition of A431 cell proliferation. While FaDu cells did not show instant proliferation inhibition after incubating with AuNP-NUAP-STAT3d, the cell DNA damage in these cells showed nearly a 50% increase in AuNP-NUAP-STAT3d group after treating with radiation. Compared with anti-EGFR humanized antibody (Cetuximab), AuNP-NUAP-STAT3d system had an overall stronger radiosensitization effect in both A431 and FaDu cells.


STAT3.; aptamer; confocal microscopy; gold nanoparticle; oligonucleotide

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