Concise nanotherapeutic modality for cancer involving graphene oxide dots in conjunction with ascorbic acid†
Cancer cells tend to have higher intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and are more vulnerable to ROS-generating therapies such as ascorbic acid (H2Asc) therapy, whose potency has been explored by several clinical trials. However, its efficiency is restricted by the requirement of pharmacologically high local H2Asc concentrations. Here, we show that nitrogen-doped graphene oxide dots (NGODs), which are highly crystalline and biocompatible, can serve as a catalytic medium for improving H2Asc cancer therapy at orally achievable physiological H2Asc concentrations. NGODs catalyze H2Asc oxidation for H2O2 and dehydroascorbic acid generation to disrupt cancer cells by consuming intracellular glutathione (GSH) and inducing ROS damage. This is the first study to demonstrate the direct consumption of GSH using a carbon-based nano-catalyst (NGODs), which further expedites tumor killing. In addition, as in our previous study, NGODs can also serve as a highly efficient photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy. Under illumination, NGODs produce a considerable amount of H2O2 in the presence of physiological levels of H2Asc as a hole scavenger and further enhance the therapeutic efficiency. Thus, a concise nanotherapeutic modality could be achieved through the conjunction of multifunctional NGODs and H2Asc to selectively eliminate deep-seated and superficial tumors simultaneously (under 65% of normal cell viability, it kills almost all cancer cells). Note that this level of therapeutic versatility generally requires multiple components and complex manufacturing processes that run into difficulties with FDA regulations and clinical applications. In this study, the concise NGOD–H2Asc nanotherapeutic modality has demonstrated its great potential in cancer therapy.