Bypassing pro-survival and resistance mechanisms of autophagy in EGFR-positive lung cancer cells by targeted delivery of 5FU using theranostic Ag2S quantum dots
Targeted drug delivery systems that combine imaging and therapeutic functions in a single structure have become very popular in nanomedicine. Near-infrared (NIR) emitting Ag2S quantum dots (QDs) are excellent candidates for this task. Here, we have developed PEGylated Ag2S QDs functionalized with Cetuximab (Cet) antibody and loaded with an anticancer drug, 5-fluorouracil (5FU). These theranostic QDs were used for targeted NIR imaging and treatment of lung cancer using low (H1299) and high (A549) Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) overexpressing cell lines. The Cet conjugated QDs effectively and selectively delivered 5FU to A549 cells and provided significantly enhanced cell death associated with apoptosis. Interestingly, while treatment of cells with free 5FU activated autophagy, a cellular mechanism conferring resistance to cell death, these EGFR targeting multimodal QDs significantly overcame drug resistance compared to 5FU treatment alone. The improved therapeutic outcome of 5FU delivered to A549 cells by Cet conjugated Ag2S QDs is suggested as the synergistic outcome of enhanced receptor mediated uptake of nanoparticles, and hence the drug, coupled with suppressed autophagy even in the absence of addition of an autophagy suppressor.