Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

PloS One


Thayer School of Engineering

Additional Department

Geisel School of Medicine


Realizing the full potential of iron oxide nanoparticles (IONP) for cancer diagnosis and therapy requires selective tumor cell accumulation. Here, we report a systematic analysis of two key determinants for IONP homing to human breast cancers: (i) particle size and (ii) active vs passive targeting. In vitro, molecular targeting to the HER2 receptor was the dominant factor driving cancer cell association. In contrast, size was found to be the key determinant of tumor accumulation in vivo, where molecular targeting increased tumor tissue concentrations for 30 nm but not 100 nm IONP. Similar to the in vitro results, PEGylation did not influence in vivo IONP biodistribution. Thus, the results reported here indicate that the in vitro advantages of molecular targeting may not consistently extend to pre-clinical in vivo settings. These observations may have important implications for the design and clinical translation of advanced, multifunctional, IONP platforms.