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Folate Functionalized Boron Nitride Nanotubes and their Selective Uptake by Glioblastoma Multiforme Cells: Implications for their Use as Boron Carriers in Clinical Boron Neutron Capture Therapy

Gianni Ciofani12*, Vittoria Raffa1, Arianna Menciassi13 and Alfred Cuschieri1

Author Affiliations

1 Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Piazza Martiri della Libertà, 33, 56127, Pisa, Italy

2 Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, CRIM Lab - Center for Applied Research in Micro and Nano Engineering, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio, 34, 56025, Pontedera (Pisa), Italy

3 Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Via Morego, 30, 16163, Genoa, Italy

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2008, 4:113-121  doi:10.1007/s11671-008-9210-9

Published: 25 November 2008


Boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) is increasingly being used in the treatment of several aggressive cancers, including cerebral glioblastoma multiforme. The main requirement for this therapy is selective targeting of tumor cells by sufficient quantities of10B atoms required for their capture/irradiation with low-energy thermal neutrons. The low content of boron targeting species in glioblastoma multiforme accounts for the difficulty in selective targeting of this very malignant cerebral tumor by this radiation modality. In the present study, we have used for the first time boron nitride nanotubes as carriers of boron atoms to overcome this problem and enhance the selective targeting and ablative efficacy of BNCT for these tumors. Following their dispersion in aqueous solution by noncovalent coating with biocompatible poly-L-lysine solutions, boron nitride nanotubes were functionalized with a fluorescent probe (quantum dots) to enable their tracking and with folic acid as selective tumor targeting ligand. Initial in vitro studies have confirmed substantive and selective uptake of these nanovectors by glioblastoma multiforme cells, an observation which confirms their potential clinical application for BNCT therapy for these malignant cerebral tumors.

Boron nitride nanotubes; Folate; Glioblastoma multiforme; Boron neutron capture therapy