Ferritin nanocages to encapsulate and deliver photosensitizers for efficient photodynamic therapy against cancer

Zipeng Zhen, Wei Tang, Cunlan Guo, Hongmin Chen, Xin Lin, Gang Liu, Baowei Fei, Xiaoyuan Chen, Binqian Xu, Jin Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


Photodynamic therapy is an emerging treatment modality that is under intensive preclinical and clinical investigations for many types of disease including cancer. Despite the promise, there is a lack of a reliable drug delivery vehicle that can transport photosensitizers (PSs) to tumors in a site-specific manner. Previous efforts have been focused on polymer- or liposome-based nanocarriers, which are usually associated with a suboptimal PS loading rate and a large particle size. We report herein that a RGD4C-modified ferritin (RFRT), a protein-based nanoparticle, can serve as a safe and efficient PS vehicle. Zinc hexadecafluorophthalocyanine (ZnF16Pc), a potent PS with a high 1O2 quantum yield but poor water solubility, can be encapsulated into RFRTs with a loading rate as high as ∼60 wt % (i.e., 1.5 mg of ZnF16Pc can be loaded on 1 mg of RFRTs), which far exceeds those reported previously. Despite the high loading, the ZnF 16Pc-loaded RFRTs (P-RFRTs) show an overall particle size of 18.6 ± 2.6 nm, which is significantly smaller than other PS-nanocarrier conjugates. When tested on U87MG subcutaneous tumor models, P-RFRTs showed a high tumor accumulation rate (tumor-to-normal tissue ratio of 26.82 ± 4.07 at 24 h), a good tumor inhibition rate (83.64% on day 12), as well as minimal toxicity to the skin and other major organs. This technology can be extended to deliver other metal-containing PSs and holds great clinical translation potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6988-6996
Number of pages9
JournalACS Nano
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 27 2013


  • ferritin
  • nanoparticle
  • photodynamic therapy
  • photosensitizer
  • targeted delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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