Role of apoptosis and necrosis in cell death induced by nanoparticle-mediated photothermal therapy

  • Varun P. Pattani
  • Jay Shah
  • Alexandra Atalis
  • Anirudh Sharma
  • James W. Tunnell
Research Paper


Current cancer therapies can cause significant collateral damage due to a lack of specificity and sensitivity. Therefore, we explored the cell death pathway response to gold nanorod (GNR)-mediated photothermal therapy as a highly specific cancer therapeutic to understand the role of apoptosis and necrosis during intense localized heating. By developing this, we can optimize photothermal therapy to induce a maximum of ‘clean’ cell death pathways, namely apoptosis, thereby reducing external damage. GNRs were targeted to several subcellular localizations within colorectal tumor cells in vitro, and the cell death pathways were quantitatively analyzed after photothermal therapy using flow cytometry. In this study, we found that the cell death response to photothermal therapy was dependent on the GNR localization. Furthermore, we demonstrated that nanorods targeted to the perinuclear region irradiated at 37.5 W/cm2 laser fluence rate led to maximum cell destruction with the ‘cleaner’ method of apoptosis, at similar percentages as other anti-cancer targeted therapies. We believe that this indicates the therapeutic potential for GNR-mediated photothermal therapy to treat cancer effectively without causing damage to surrounding tissue.


Gold nanoparticles Gold nanorods Photothermal therapy (PTT) Plasmon resonance Two-photon imaging Cancer therapy 



We acknowledge the National Institutes of Health (Grant R01CA132032) for the financial support of this work. Additionally, we acknowledge the two-photon microscope use in the project described was supported by Award Number S10RR027950 from the National Center for Research Resources. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Research Resources or the National Institutes of Health.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Varun P. Pattani
    • 1
  • Jay Shah
    • 1
  • Alexandra Atalis
    • 1
  • Anirudh Sharma
    • 1
  • James W. Tunnell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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