Graphene quantum dots for cancer targeted drug delivery

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Abstract

A biocompatible and cell traceable drug delivery system Graphene Quantum Dots (GQD) based, for the targeted delivery of the DNA intercalating drug doxorubicin (DOX) to cancer cells, is here reported. Highly dispersible and water soluble GQD, synthesized by acidic oxidation and exfoliation of multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT), were covalently linked to the tumor targeting module biotin (BTN), able to efficiently recognize biotin receptors over-expressed on cancer cells and loaded with DOX. Biological test performed on A549 cells reported a very low toxicity of the synthesized carrier (GQD and GQD-BTN). In GQD-BTN-DOX treated cancer cells, the cytotoxicity was strongly dependent from cell uptake which was greater and delayed after treatment with GQD-BTN-DOX system with respect to what observed for cells treated with the same system lacking of the targeting module BTN (GQD-DOX) or with the free drug alone. A delayed nuclear internalization of the drug is reported, due to the drug detachment from the nanosystem, triggered by the acidic environment of cancer cells.

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