Background: Radiotherapy (RT) is clinically well-established cancer treatment. However, radioresistance remains a significant issue associated with failure of RT. Phototherapy-induced radiosensitization has recently attracted attention in translational cancer research.
Methods: Cu-Sb-S nanoparticles (NPs) coated with ultra-small Au nanocrystals (Au@Cu-Sb-S) were synthesized and characterized. The biosafety profiles, absorption of near-infrared (NIR) laser and radiation-enhancing effect of the NPs were evaluated. In vitro and in vivo spectral computed tomography (CT) imaging and photoacoustic (PA) imaging were performed in 4T1 breast cancer-bearing mice. The synergetic radio-phototherapy was assessed by in vivo tumor inhibition studies.
Results: Au@Cu-Sb-S NPs were prepared by in situ growth of Au NCs on the surface of Cu-Sb-S NPs. The cell viability experiments showed that the combination of Au@Cu-Sb-S+NIR+RT was significantly more cytotoxic to tumor cells than the other treatments at concentrations above 25 ppm Sb. In vitro and in vivo spectral CT imaging demonstrated that the X-ray attenuation ability of Au@Cu-Sb-S NPs was superior to that of the clinically used Iodine, particularly at lower KeV levels. Au@Cu-Sb-S NPs showed a concentration-dependent and remarkable PA signal brightening effect. In vivo tumor inhibition studies showed that the prepared Au@Cu-Sb-S NPs significantly suppressed tumor growth in 4T1 breast cancer-bearing mice treated with NIR laser irradiation and an intermediate X-ray dose (4 Gy).
Conclusion: These results indicate that Au@Cu-Sb-S integrated with spectral CT, PA imaging, and phototherapy-enhanced radiosensitization is a promising multifunctional theranostic nanoplatform for clinical applications.

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