Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Clinical and Translational Sciences

First Advisor

Jamal Zweit

Second Advisor

Ross Mikkelsen


Cerium oxide nanoparticles (CONPs) are being investigated for several anti-oxidant applications in medicine. One of their most promising applications is as a radioprotective drug, an area of research in need due to the severe side effects from radiation therapy. In this work, the potential of CONPs as a radioprotective drug is examined using four criteria: favorable biodistribution/pharmacokinetics, low toxicity, ability to protect normal tissue from radiation damage, and lack of protection of tumor. The mechanisms of action of CONPs are also studied. Biodistribution was determined in radiolabeled CONPs with surface coatings including citrate, dextran T10-amine (DT10-NH2), dextran T10-polyethylene glycol (DT10-PEG), dextran T10-sulfobetaine (DT10-SB) and poly(acrylic acid) (PAA), and compared to uncoated. 89Zr was incorporated into CONPs for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and ex vivo tissue analysis in tumor bearing mice. Compared to uncoated [89Zr]CONPs, coated [89Zr]CONPs showed improved biodistribution, including significantly enhanced renal clearance of PAA- [89Zr]CONPs. The toxicity of CONPs was evaluated in vitro and in vivo, with low toxicity at therapeutic doses. After clinically mimetic radiation therapy, pre-treatment of mice with coated and uncoated CONPs showed greater than 50% reduction of cell death in normal colon tissue, comparable to the clinically available radioprotective drug amifostine. Tumor control after irradiation of spontaneous colon tumors was unchanged with PAA-CONP pre-treatment, while citrate, DT10-PEG, and uncoated CONP pre-treatment had slightly less tumor control. Xenograft tumors were irradiated after pH normalizing treatment with sodium bicarbonate and PAA-CONP pre-treatment. Treatment of these tumors showed slightly less tumor control than irradiation alone or PAA-CONP plus irradiation, demonstrating that the acidic pH of the tumor microenvironment may be the basis of preventing CONPs’ radioprotective properties in tumor. These studies show that, among the variations of CONPs tested, PAA-CONP shows the most promise for its good biodistribution and quick clearance, low toxicity, ability to protect normal tissue, and lack of protection of tumor, meeting all the criteria set forth for an ideal radioprotective drug. Further studies on the effects of pH on CONPs actions may further elucidate their mechanisms of action, advancing them as a candidate for use as a radioprotective drug during radiation therapy.


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McDonagh_Supplementary_Video_1_Uncoated_CONP.mp4 (156 kB)
Supplementary Video 1 - Uncoated CONP

McDonagh_Supplementary_Video_2_Citrate_CONP.mp4 (255 kB)
Supplementary Video 2 - Citrate CONP

McDonagh_Supplementary_Video_3_DT10_NH2_CONP.mp4 (186 kB)
Supplementary Video 3 - DT10-NH2 CONP

McDonagh_Supplementary_Video_4_DT10_PEG_CONP.mp4 (262 kB)
Supplementary Video 4 - DT10-PEG CONP

McDonagh_Supplementary_Video_5_DT10_SB_CONP.mp4 (205 kB)
Supplementary Video 5 - DT10-SB CONP

McDonagh_Supplementary_Video_6_PAA_CONP.mp4 (332 kB)
Supplementary Video 6 - PAA CONP

McDonagh - Copyright Licenses.pdf (923 kB)