Theranostics 2019; 9(5):1288-1302. doi:10.7150/thno.30238

Research Paper

Iron Oxide Nanoflowers @ CuS Hybrids for Cancer Tri-Therapy: Interplay of Photothermal Therapy, Magnetic Hyperthermia and Photodynamic Therapy

Alberto Curcio1,2, Amanda K. A. Silva2, Sonia Cabana1,2, Ana Espinosa2, Benoit Baptiste3, Nicolas Menguy3, Claire Wilhelm2✉ *, Ali Abou-Hassan1✉ *

1. Sorbonne Université, CNRS UMR 8234, Physicochimie des Electrolytes et Nanosystèmes InterfaciauX (PHENIX), 4 place Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France.
2. Laboratoire Matière et Systèmes Complexes, CNRS UMR 7057, Université Paris Diderot, 75205 Paris Cedex 13, France.
3. Sorbonne Université, MNHN, CNRS UMR 7590, IRD - Institut de Minéralogie de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie (IMPMC), 4 place Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France.
*Equal contribution


Innovative synthesis routes revolutionized nanomaterial combination and design possibilities resulting in a new generation of fine-tuned nanoparticles featuring exquisite shape and constitution control. However, there is still room for improvement when it comes to the development of multi-functional nanoparticle agents merging a plurality of therapeutic functions to tackle tumors simultaneously by synergic mechanisms. Herein, we report the design of an optimized nanohybrid for cancer tri-therapy featuring a maghemite (γ-Fe2O3) nanoflower-like multicore nanoparticle conceived for efficient magnetic hyperthermia (MHT) and a spiky copper sulfide shell (IONF@CuS) with a high near-infrared (NIR) absorption coefficient suitable for photothermal (PTT) and photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Methods: Spiky-like IONF@CuS nanohybrids were obtained through a straightforward and scalable water-based template sacrificial synthesis, which allows the shell shape control by tuning polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) concentration. A comprehensive characterization of nanohybrid size, shape and structural properties was carried out by combining complementary TEM, SEM, HR-TEM, EELS, XRD and NTA. The all-in-one therapeutic multi-functionality was assessed on cancer cells and on tumor-bearing nude mice.

Results: Tests carried out on IONF@CuS nanohybrid aqueous dispersion demonstrated their impressive efficiency to convert light (conversion coefficient = 42 ± 6 %) and magnetic stimulation (SAR ~ 350 W g-1) into heat as well as to induce concurrent reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation upon laser irradiation. Such capabilities were further confirmed in cellular environment by in vitro tests and at the organism level by in vivo tests in a murine tumor model. Notably, complete tumor regression was obtained for the PTT mode at low Cu concentration. Overall, these results allowed determining windows of applicability for each therapy individually or in combination.

Conclusions: Altogether, the obtained data evidence the successful synthesis of a unique tri-therapeutic nanoparticle featuring highly relevant assets for clinical translation such as reduced nanoparticle administered dose, reduced laser power exposure, reduced magnetic field frequency, and the possibility of serial heating cycles and therapy monitoring by photoacoustic (PA) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Furthermore, the integration of the dual heating capability (MHT + PTT) with the PDT insult offers a unique asset to tackle tumors by multiple cytotoxic strategies in order to improve the therapeutic outcome in a broader spectrum of clinical conditions.

Keywords: iron oxide, copper sulfide, photothermal therapy, magnetic hyperthermia, photodynamic therapy

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How to cite this article:
Curcio A, Silva AKA, Cabana S, Espinosa A, Baptiste B, Menguy N, Wilhelm C, Abou-Hassan A. Iron Oxide Nanoflowers @ CuS Hybrids for Cancer Tri-Therapy: Interplay of Photothermal Therapy, Magnetic Hyperthermia and Photodynamic Therapy. Theranostics 2019; 9(5):1288-1302. doi:10.7150/thno.30238. Available from