Research Highlight

Nanotherapy for liver cancer

doi:10.1038/nindia.2013.112 Published online 26 August 2013

Researchers have found that copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs) can be used to kill human liver cancer cells . The nanoparticles initiate controlled death of the cancer cells, raising the prospect of a new therapeutic treatment for liver cancer.

CuO NPs are used in semiconductor devices, gas sensors, batteries and solar energy converters. Although previous studies had shown that CuO NPs can act as antimicrobial and anticancer agents, the anticancer effects of CuO NPs against human liver cancer cells had not been previously investigated. In addition, no previous studies had provided insights into how CuO NPs kill various cancer cells, including human liver cancer cells.

To gain new insights into how CuO NPs induce death of liver cancer cells, the researchers exposed liver cancer cells to CuO-NP solutions of varying concentrations for 24 hours. The study revealed that the viability of the cancer cells decreased with increasing NP concentration.

The small spherical nanoparticles generated reactive oxygen species (such as superoxide anions, hydroxyl radical and hydrogen peroxide) that damaged the membranes and the DNA of the cancer cells, eventually inducing their death. The study showed that the reactive oxygen species also turned on several death-triggering genes, driving the cancer cells to commit mass suicide.

The researchers say that this study uncovered valuable insights into how CuO NPs induce the death of liver cancer cells. They add that a long-term study is needed to determine whether CuO NPs offer a safe therapy for liver cancer patients.


  1. Siddiqui, M. A. et al. Copper oxide nanoparticles induced mitochondria mediated apoptosis in human hepatocarcinoma cells. PLoS. ONE. 8, e69534 (2013) | Article | PubMed |