Gold nanoparticle radiopharmaceuticals for the selective treatment of telomerase-positive tumours


Session type:

Bas Bavelaar1,Lei Song1,Mark Jackson2,Philip Waghorn3,Katherine Vallis1
1University of Oxford,2University of Glasgow,3Harvard University



The goal of this study was to synthesise and characterise oligonucleotide (ON)-functionalised gold nanoparticle (AuNP)-based radiopharmaceuticals for the selective targeting of telomerase-positive tumours.


A 2’O-methyl ON sequence complementary to the RNA template of telomerase (5’-CAGUUAGGGUUAG-3') was used for telomerase targeting. A scramble ON sequence (5’-GCAGUGUGAUGAU-3’) was used as control. ONs were conjugated to 111In-DTPA for internalisation and clonogenic survival studies or the fluorophore Cy3 for confocal microscopy. AuNP were synthesised by citrate reduction and functionalised with ON-conjugates (ON-AuNP) or ON-conjugates plus the cell penetrating peptide, TAT (ON-AuNP-TAT). All cell studies were performed in the telomerase-positive melanoma cell line MDA-MB-435. The effect of both constructs on telomerase activity was tested using a telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP). Subcellular distribution was analysed by internalisation assays, confocal microscopy and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Cell survival was determined in clonogenic survival assays.


AuNP constructs were successfully synthesised. ONs inhibited telomerase activity in a dose-dependent manner (logIC50 -6.93±0.072). ON-AuNP (logIC50 -6.43±0.04) and ON-AuNP-TAT (logIC50 -6.50±0.06) constructs showed similar dose-response effects. Internalisation of 111In-DTPA-ON-AuNP-TAT was significantly higher than 111In-DTPA-ON-AuNP (5.609% ± 0.969% vs 3.618% ± 0.302%, p=0.0005). Confocal microscopy and TEM showed that ON-AuNP were predominantly located in endosomal vesicles. However, endosomal escape of ON-AuNP-TAT, was demonstrated as AuNP were observed in the nucleus. 111In-DTPA-ON-AuNP-TAT significantly reduced the clonogenic survival of MDA-MB-435 cells (Survival fraction 0.224±0.099 [1 μg/mL ON, 3 MBq/μg]).


Telomerase-targeting AuNP-based radiopharmaceuticals specifically inhibit telomerase activity and are cytotoxic in telomerase-positive cancer cells.