Evaluating nanoparticle localisation in glioblastoma multicellular tumour spheroids by surface enhanced Raman scattering

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Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a particularly aggressive and high-grade brain cancer, with poor prognosis and life expectancy, in urgent need of novel therapies. These severe outcomes are compounded by the difficulty in distinguishing between cancerous and non-cancerous tissues using conventional imaging techniques. Metallic nanoparticles (NPs) are advantageous due to their diverse optical and physical properties, such as their targeting and imaging potential. In this work, the uptake, distribution, and location of silica coated gold nanoparticles (AuNP-SHINs) within multicellular tumour spheroids (MTS) derived from U87-MG glioblastoma cells was investigated by surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) optical mapping. MTS are three-dimensional in vitro tumour mimics that represent a tumour in vivo much more closely than that of a two-dimensional cell culture. By using AuNP-SHIN nanotags, it is possible to readily functionalise the inner gold surface with a Raman reporter, and the outer silica surface with an antibody for tumour specific targeting. The nanotags were designed to target the biomarker tenascin-C overexpressed in U87-MG glioblastoma cells. Immunochemistry indicated that tenascin-C was upregulated within the core of the MTS, however limitations such as NP size, quiescence, and hypoxia, restricted the penetration of the nanotags to the core and they remained in the outer proliferating cells of the spheroids. Previous examples of MTS studies using SERS demonstrated the incubation of NPs on a 2D monolayer of cells, with the subsequent formation of the MTS from these pre-incubated cells. Here, we focus on the localisation of the NPs after incubation into pre-formed MTS to establish a better understanding of targeting and NP uptake. Therefore, this work highlights the importance for the investigation and translation of NP uptake into these 3D in vitro models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3247-3256
Number of pages10
Issue number14
Early online date16 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2023


  • glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
  • brain cancer
  • surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)
  • multicellular tumour spheroids (MTS)
  • silica coated gold nanoparticles (AuNP-SHINs)


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