Rapid liver and spleen opsonization of systemically administered nanoparticles (NPs) for in vivo applications remains the Achilles' heel of nanomedicine, allowing only a small fraction of the materials to reach the intended target tissue. Although focusing on diseases that reside in the natural disposal organs for nanoparticles is a viable option, it limits the plurality of lesions that could benefit from nanomedical interventions. Here we designed a theranostic nanoplatform consisting of reactive oxygen (ROS)-generating titanium dioxide (TiO2) NPs, coated with a tumor-targeting agent, transferrin (Tf), and radiolabeled with a radionuclide (89Zr) for targeting bone marrow, imaging the distribution of the NPs, and stimulating ROS generation for cell killing. Radiolabeling of TiO2 NPs with 89Zr afforded thermodynamically and kinetically stable chelate-free 89Zr-TiO2-Tf NPs without altering the NP morphology. Treatment of multiple myeloma (MM) cells, a disease of plasma cells originating in the bone marrow, with 89Zr-TiO2-Tf generated cytotoxic ROS to induce cancer cell killing via the apoptosis pathway. Positron emission tomography/X-ray computed tomography (PET/CT) imaging and tissue biodistribution studies revealed that in vivo administration of 89Zr-TiO2-Tf in mice leveraged the osteotropic effect of 89Zr to selectively localize about 70% of the injected radioactivity in mouse bone tissue. A combination of small-animal PET/CT imaging of NP distribution and bioluminescence imaging of cancer progression showed that a single-dose 89Zr-TiO2-Tf treatment in a disseminated MM mouse model completely inhibited cancer growth at euthanasia of untreated mice and at least doubled the survival of treated mice. Treatment of the mice with cold Zr-TiO2-Tf, 89Zr-oxalate, or 89Zr-Tf had no therapeutic benefit compared to untreated controls. This study reveals an effective radionuclide sensitizing nanophototherapy paradigm for the treatment of MM and possibly other bone-associated malignancies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4255-4264
Number of pages10
JournalACS nano
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 28 2020


  • Cerenkov radiation
  • Zr-89
  • cancer
  • multiple myeloma
  • nanoparticles


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