A highly biocompatible and intravenous injectable hafnium oxide nanocrystal synthesized to enhance radiaotherapy efficacy for cancer treatment

On October 11, the research team led by ZHOU Min from the Zhejiang University Institute of Translational Medicine published a research article entitled “Gram-scale synthesis of highly biocompatible and intravenous injectable hafnium oxide nanocrystal with enhanced radiotherapy efficacy for cancer theranostic” in the journal of Biomaterials.

Bio-inorganic nanomaterials are one of the hottest research topics in biomaterials, but materials that can be successfully applied to clinical trials are far and few between. The Hafnium Oxide (HfO2) based nanoagent has been employed in clinical trials for radiosensitized tumor therapy. However, the current clinically used HfO2 nanoparticles rely heavily on intratumoral injection, thus considerably hindering therapeutic effects.

To address this challenge, ZHOU Min et al. developed an intravenously injectable and clearable HfO2 nano-assembly (NA) which can be produced on a large scale. This NA can not only enhance radiotherapeutic effects, but it can also be removed from the body effectively, thereby reducing its side effect.

Schematic illustration of the synthesis process of HfO2 nanocrystal assemblies and enhanced radiotherapy performance against tumor.

ZHOU Min et al. found that this new type of HfO2 radiotherapy sensitizer can not only destroy breast cancer tumor cells efficiently upon X-ray radiation but also significantly inhibit the growth of tumor stem cells. CT and in vivo fluorescence imaging demonstrate its efficient tumor-homing ability and exhibit remarkable radiotherapeutic sensitization effects in a 4T1 breast tumor model after intravenous injection. More importantly, this HfO2 NA has low toxicity even at high concentrations. Moreover, it can be degraded and excreted effectively within a reasonable period in a living body, thus able to eschew long-term toxicity.

This work provides a new approach to promoting radiotherapeutic efficiency and safety. At present, this research is confined to small animals. However, it is expected that the HfO2 NA will be tested on large animals, thus attesting to the feasibility of clinical translation.

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