Dependence of gold nanoparticle radiosensitization on cell geometry

Wonmo Sung, Sung Joon Ye*, Aimee L. McNamara, Stephen J. McMahon, James Hainfeld, Jungwook Shin, Henry M. Smilowitz, Harald Paganetti, Jan Schuemann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The radiosensitization effect of gold nanoparticles (GNPs) has been demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo in radiation therapy. The purpose of this study was to systematically assess the biological effectiveness of GNPs distributed in the extracellular media for realistic cell geometries. TOPAS-nBio simulations were used to determine the nanometre-scale radial dose distributions around the GNPs, which were subsequently used to predict the radiation dose response of cells surrounded by GNPs. MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells and F-98 rat glioma cells were used as models to assess different cell geometries by changing (1) the cell shape, (2) the nucleus location within the cell, (3) the size of GNPs, and (4) the photon energy. The results show that the sensitivity enhancement ratio (SER) was increased up to a factor of 1.2 when the location of the nucleus is close to the cell membrane for elliptical-shaped cells. Heat-maps of damage-likelihoods show that most of the lethal events occur in the regions of the nuclei closest to the membrane, potentially causing highly clustered damage patterns. The effect of the GNP size on radiosensitization was limited when the GNPs were located outside the cell. The improved modelling of the cell geometry was shown to be crucial because the dose enhancement caused by GNPs falls off rapidly with distance from the GNPs. We conclude that radiosensitization can be achieved for kV photons even without cellular uptake of GNPs when the nucleus is shifted towards the cell membrane. Furthermore, damage was found to concentrate in a small region of the nucleus in close proximity to the extracellular, GNP-laden region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5843-5853
Number of pages11
Issue number18
Early online date12 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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