Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 371–386 | Cite as

Phenotypically Screened Carbon Nanoparticles for Enhanced Combinatorial Therapy in Triple Negative Breast Cancer

  • Taylor Kampert
  • Santosh K. Misra
  • Indrajit Srivastava
  • Indu Tripathi
  • Dipanjan Pan



Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a highly aggressive type of breast cancer with high resistance to current standard therapies. We demonstrate that phenotypically stratified carbon nanoparticle is highly effective in delivering a novel combinatorial triple drug formulation for synergistic regression of TNBC in vitro and in vivo.


The combinatorial formulation is comprised of repurposed inhibitors of STAT3 (nifuroxazide), topoisomerase-II-activation-pathway (amonafide) and NFκb (pentoxifylline). Synergistic effect of drug combination was established in a panel of TNBC-lines comprising mesenchymal-stem-like, mesenchymal and basal-like cells along with non-TNBC-cells. The delivery of combinatorial drug formulation was achieved using a phenotypically screened carbon nanoparticles for TNBC cell lines.


Results indicated a remarkable five-fold improvement (IC50-6.75 µM) from the parent drugs with a combinatorial index <1 in majority of the TNBC cells. Multi-compartmental carbon nanoparticles were then parametrically assessed based on size, charge (positive/negative/neutral) and chemistry (functionalities) to study their likelihood of crossing endocytic barriers from phenotypical standpoint in TNBC lines. Interestingly, a combination of clathrin mediated, energy and dynamin dependent pathways were predominant for sulfonated nanoparticles, whereas pristine and phospholipid particles followed all the investigated endocytic pathways.


An exactitude ‘omics’ approach helps to predict that phospholipid encapsulated-particles will predominantly accumulate in TNBC comprising the drug-‘cocktail’. We investigated the protein expression effects inducing synergistic effect and simultaneously suppressing drug resistance through distinct mechanisms of action.



Materials characterizations were done at Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory, UIUC. We would like to thank Fatemeh Ostadhossein and Enrique Daza for help with the biodegradability studies.


Funding from UIUC, National Science Foundation, Michael Reese Foundation and Children’s Discovery Institute are acknowledged.

Conflict of Interest

Prof. Pan has received research grants from NIH, NSF, American Heart Association, Children’s Discovery Institute, Michael Reese Foundation and other agencies. Prof. Pan is the founder or co-founder of three start-up companies. None of these entities supported this research. Taylor Kampert, Indrajit Srivastava and Santosh Misra declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

12195_2017_490_MOESM1_ESM.docx (188 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 188 kb)


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taylor Kampert
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Santosh K. Misra
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Indrajit Srivastava
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Indu Tripathi
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Dipanjan Pan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of BioengineeringUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and TechnologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  4. 4.Carle Foundation HospitalUrbanaUSA
  5. 5.Institute for Sustainability in Energy and EnvironmentUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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