Theranostics 2018; 8(7):1824-1849. doi:10.7150/thno.22172 This issue


Metal-based NanoEnhancers for Future Radiotherapy: Radiosensitizing and Synergistic Effects on Tumor Cells

Yan Liu1,2,3,4, Pengcheng Zhang1,2,3,4, Feifei Li1,2,3,4, Xiaodong Jin1,2,3, Jin Li5, Weiqiang Chen1,2,3,✉, Qiang Li1,2,3,✉

1. Institute of Modern Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China
2. Key Laboratory of Heavy Ion Radiation Biology and Medicine of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, China
3. Key Laboratory of Basic Research on Heavy Ion Radiation Application in Medicine, Gansu Province, Lanzhou, China
4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
5. State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-ecosystems, College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
a E-mail address: (Y. Liu)

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Liu Y, Zhang P, Li F, Jin X, Li J, Chen W, Li Q. Metal-based NanoEnhancers for Future Radiotherapy: Radiosensitizing and Synergistic Effects on Tumor Cells. Theranostics 2018; 8(7):1824-1849. doi:10.7150/thno.22172. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Radiotherapy is one of the major therapeutic strategies for cancer treatment. In the past decade, there has been growing interest in using high Z (atomic number) elements (materials) as radiosensitizers. New strategies in nanomedicine could help to improve cancer diagnosis and therapy at cellular and molecular levels. Metal-based nanoparticles usually exhibit chemical inertness in cellular and subcellular systems and may play a role in radiosensitization and synergistic cell-killing effects for radiation therapy. This review summarizes the efficacy of metal-based NanoEnhancers against cancers in both in vitro and in vivo systems for a range of ionizing radiations including gamma-rays, X-rays, and charged particles. The potential of translating preclinical studies on metal-based nanoparticles-enhanced radiation therapy into clinical practice is also discussed using examples of several metal-based NanoEnhancers (such as CYT-6091, AGuIX, and NBTXR3). Also, a few general examples of theranostic multimetallic nanocomposites are presented, and the related biological mechanisms are discussed.

Keywords: tumor, radiation therapy, metal-based nanoparticles, NanoEnhancers, radiosensitization, synergistic chemo-radiotherapy