American Chemical Society
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Exploration of Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles as a Multitarget and Multifunctional Anticancer Nanomedicine

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-10-27, 00:00 authored by Jiao Wang, Jung Seok Lee, Dongin Kim, Lin Zhu
Because of the complexity of cancer, an ideal anticancer strategy is better to target both cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment. In this study, for the first time, we demonstrated that zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs) were able to target multiple cell types of cancer, including cancer cells, cancer stem cells (CSCs), and macrophages, and simultaneously perform several key functions, including inhibition of cancer proliferation, sensitization of drug-resistant cancer, prevention of cancer recurrence and metastasis, and resuscitation of cancer immunosurveillance. As a nanocarrier, the chemotherapy drug, doxorubicin (Dox), could be loaded to ZnO NPs and the Dox-loaded ZnO NPs (ZnO/Dox) possessed excellent physicochemical and pH-responsive drug release properties. ZnO/Dox could be effectively internalized by both drug-sensitive and multidrug resistant (MDR) cancer cells and penetrate more efficiently through three-dimensional (3D) cancer cell spheroids compared with free Dox. As a cytotoxic agent, ZnO NPs were more efficient to kill MDR cancer cells. Interestingly, neither ZnO nor Dox showed high cytotoxicity in the 3D cancer cell spheroids, whereas ZnO/Dox showed remarkable synergistic anticancer effects. More importantly, we demonstrated that ZnO NPs could effectively downregulate CD44, a key CSC surface marker, and decrease the stemness of CSCs, leading to the sensitization of the Dox treatment, inhibition of the cancer cell adhesion and migration, and prevention of the tumor (3D cancer cell spheroid) formation. As an immunomodulator, ZnO NPs could protect macrophages from the Dox-induced toxicity and boost the Dox-induced macrophage polarization toward an M1-like phenotype. The macrophage-conditioned medium could promote the cancer cell apoptosis in both cancer cell monolayers and 3D spheroids. The findings in this study indicated that ZnO NPs were a multifunctional and multitarget nanocarrier and nanomedicine that would have more profound effects on cancer treatment.