Targeting EGFR of triple-negative breast cancer enhances the therapeutic efficacy of paclitaxel- and cetuximab-conjugated nanodiamond nanocomposite

Wei Siang Liao, Yu Ho, Yu Wei Lin, Emmanuel Naveen Raj, Kuang Kai Liu, Chinpiao Chen, Xiao Zhen Zhou, Kun Ping Lu, Jui-I Chao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Breast cancer is the most common malignancy and a leading cause of cancer-related mortality among women worldwide. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is characterized by the lack of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2). However, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is highly expressed in most of the TNBCs, which may provide a potential target for EGFR targeting therapy. Nanodiamond (ND) is a carbon-based nanomaterial with several advantages, including fluorescence emission, biocompatibility, and drug delivery applications. In this study, we designed a nanocomposite by using ND conjugated with paclitaxel (PTX) and cetuximab (Cet) for targeting therapy on the EGFR-positive TNBC cells. ND-PTX inhibited cell viability and induced mitotic catastrophe in various human breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231, MCF-7, and BT474); in contrast, ND alone did not induce cell death. ND-PTX inhibited the xenografted human breast tumors in nude mice. We further investigated ND-PTX-Cet drug efficacy on the TNBC of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. ND-PTX-Cet could specifically bind to EGFR and enhanced the anticancer effects including drug uptake levels, mitotic catastrophe, and apoptosis in the EGFR-expressed MDA-MB-231 cells but not in the EGFR-negative MCF-7 cells. In addition, ND-PTX-Cet increased the protein levels of active caspase-3 and phospho-histone H3 (Ser10). Furthermore, ND-PTX-Cet showed more effective on the reduction of TNBC tumor volume by comparison with ND-PTX. Taken together, these results demonstrated that ND-PTX-Cet nanocomposite enhanced mitotic catastrophe and apoptosis by targeting EGFR of TNBC cells, which can provide a feasible strategy for TNBC therapy. Statement of significance: Current TNBC treatment is ineffective against the survival rate of TNBC patients. Therefore, the development of new treatment strategies for TNBC patients is urgently needed. Here, we have designed a nanocomposite by targeting on the EGFR of TNBC to enhance therapeutic efficacy by ND-conjugated PTX and Cet (ND-PTX-Cet). Interestingly, we found that the co-delivery of Cet and PTX by ND enhanced the apoptosis, mitotic catastrophe and tumor inhibition in the EGFR-expressed TNBC in vitro and in vivo. Consequently, this nanocomposite ND-PTX-Cet can be applied for targeting EGFR of human TNBC therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-405
Number of pages11
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Cetuximab
  • EGFR
  • Nanodiamond
  • Paclitaxel
  • Triple-negative breast cancer


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