X ray radiation, nanoparticles, cancer detection, radiation therapy, biomarkers, circulating tumor cells


Despite significant improvements in medical sciences over the last decade, cancer still continues to be a major cause of death in humans throughout the world. Parallel to the efforts of understanding the intricacies of cancer biology, researchers are continuously striving to develop effective cancer detection and treatment strategies. Use of nanotechnology in the modern era opens up a wide range of possibilities for diagnostics, therapies and preventive measures for cancer management. Although, existing strategies of cancer detection and treatment, using nanoparticles, have been proven successful in case of cancer imaging and targeted drug deliveries, they are often limited by poor sensitivity, lack of specificity, complex sample preparation efforts and inherent toxicities associated with the nanoparticles, especially in case of in-vivo applications. Moreover, the detection of cancer is not necessarily integrated with treatment. X-rays have long been used in radiation therapy to kill cancer cells and also for imaging tumors inside the body using nanoparticles as contrast agents. However, X-rays, in combination with nanoparticles, can also be used for cancer diagnosis by detecting cancer biomarkers and circulating tumor cells. Moreover, the use of nanoparticles can also enhance the efficacy of X-ray radiation therapy for cancer treatment. This dissertation describes a novel in vitro technique for cancer detection and treatment using X-ray radiation and nanoparticles. Surfaces of synthesized metallic nanoparticles have been modified with appropriate ligands to specifically target cancer cells and biomarkers in vitro. Characteristic X-ray fluorescence signals from the X-ray irradiated nanoparticles are then used for detecting the presence of cancer. The method enables simultaneous detection of multiple iv cancer biomarkers allowing accurate diagnosis and early detection of cancer. Circulating tumor cells, which are the primary indicators of cancer metastasis, have also been detected where the use of magnetic nanoparticles allows enrichment of rare cancer cells prior to detection. The approach is unique in that it integrates cancer detection and treatment under one platform, since, X-rays have been shown to effectively kill cancer cells through radiation induced DNA damage. Due to high penetrating power of X-rays, the method has potential applications for in vivo detection and treatment of deeply buried cancers in humans. The effect of nanoparticle toxicity on multiple cell types has been investigated using conventional cytotoxicity assays for both unmodified nanoparticles as well as nanoparticles modified with a variety of surface coatings. Appropriate surface modifications have significantly reduced inherent toxicity of nanoparticles, providing possibilities for future clinical applications. To investigate cellular damages caused by X-ray radiation, an on-chip biodosimeter has been fabricated based on three dimensional microtissues which allows direct monitoring of responses to X-ray exposure for multiple mammalian cell types. Damage to tumor cells caused by X-rays is known to be significantly higher in presence of nanoparticles which act as radiosensitizers and enhance localized radiation doses. An analytical approach is used to investigate the various parameters that affect the radiosensitizing properties of the nanoparticles. The results can be used to increase the efficacy of nanoparticle aided X-ray radiation therapy for cancer treatment by appropriate choice of X-ray beam energy, nanoparticle size, material composition and location of nanoparticle with respect to the tumor cell nucleus.


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Graduation Date





Su, Ming


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Electrical Engineering








Release Date

December 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Engineering and Computer Science, Engineering and Computer Science -- Dissertations, Academic