Effect of cetuximab-conjugated gold nanoparticles on the cytotoxicity and phenotypic evolution of colorectal cancer cells

Ralph El Hallal, Nana Lyu, Yuling Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is estimated to be overexpressed in 60~80% of colorectal cancer (CRC), which is associated with a poor prognosis. Anti-EGFR targeted monoclonal antibodies (cetuximab and panitumumab) have played an important role in the treatment of metastatic CRC. However, the therapeutic response of anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies is limited due to multiple resistance mechanisms. With the discovery of new functions for gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), we hypothesize that cetuximab-conjugated AuNPs (cetuximab-AuNPs) will not only improve the cytotoxicity for cancer cells, but also introduce expression change of the related biomarkers on cancer cell surface. In this contribution, we investigated the size-dependent cytotoxicity of cetuximab-AuNPs to CRC cell line (HT-29), while also monitored the expression of cell surface biomarkers in response to treatment with cetuximab and cetuximab-AuNPs. AuNPs with the size of 60 nm showed the highest impact for cell cytotoxicity, which was tested by cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) assay. Three cell surface biomarkers including epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), melanoma cell adhesion molecule (MCAM), and human epidermal growth factor receptor-3 (HER-3) were found to be expressed at higher heterogeneity when cetuximab was conjugated to AuNPs. Both surface-enhanced Raman scattering/spectroscopy (SERS) and flow cytometry demonstrated the correlation of cell surface biomarkers in response to the drug treatment. We thus believe this study provides powerful potential for drug-conjugated AuNPs to enhance cancer prognosis and therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number567
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • epidermal growth factor receptor
  • colorectal cancer
  • cetuximab
  • cytotoxicity
  • gold nanoparticles
  • surface-enhanced Raman scattering/spectroscopy
  • phenotypes


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