Copper-Cysteamine Nanoparticles as a Heterogeneous Fenton-Like Catalyst for Highly Selective Cancer Treatment

Lalit Chudal, Nil Kanatha Pandey, Jonathan Phan, Omar Johnson, Liangwu Lin, Hongmei Yu, Yang Shu, Zhenzhen Huang, Meiying Xing, J. Ping Liu, Ming Li Chen, Wei Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Herein, for the first time, we report copper-cysteamine (Cu-Cy) nanoparticles having Cu1+ instead of Cu2+ as an efficient heterogeneous Fenton-like catalyst for highly selective cancer treatment. Initial measurements of Cu-Cy's hydroxyl radical generation ability show that it behaves as a Fenton-like reagent in the presence of H2O2 (100 μM) at pH 7.4, and that its Fenton-like activity is dramatically enhanced under acidic conditions (pH 6.5 and 5.5). Notably, Cu-Cy exhibits high stability and minimal copper release during the Fenton-like reaction, demonstrating its potency as a heterogeneous Fenton-like catalyst with a low cytotoxic effect. Through extensive in vitro studies, Cu-Cy NPs are found to generate a significantly higher level of ROS, thereby causing significantly more destruction to cancerous cells than to normal cells without the need for exogenous additives, such as H2O2. To the best of our knowledge, the average IC-50 value of Cu-Cy to cancer cells (11 μg/mL) is the lowest among reported heterogeneous Fenton-like nanocatalyst so far. Additionally, compared to cancer cells, Cu-Cy NPs display substantially higher IC-50 value toward normal cells (50 μg/mL), suggesting high selectivity. Overall, Cu-Cy NPs can participate in heterogeneous Fenton-like activity with elevated H2O2 under acidic conditions to produce significantly higher levels of hydroxyl radicals in cancer cells when compared to normal cells, resulting in selective cytotoxicity to cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1804-1814
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Bio Materials
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer treatment
  • copper-cysteamine
  • Fenton reaction
  • Fenton therapy
  • heterogenous
  • highly selective
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • hydroxyl radical
  • low pH
  • nanoparticles


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