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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 52  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 262-264

Single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes based drug delivery system: Cancer therapy: A review

1 Department of Pharmaceutics, St James College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kerala, India
2 Pharmaceutical Analysis, St James College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kerala, India
3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry, St James College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kerala, India
4 Pharmacy Practice, St James College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kerala, India
5 Pharmacy Practice, International Medical University, Malaysia

Date of Web Publication18-Feb-2016

Correspondence Address:
B Dineshkumar
Department of Pharmaceutics, St James College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-509X.176720

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 » Abstract 

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are advanced nano-carrier for delivery of drugs especially anti-cancer drugs. In the field of CNT-based drug delivery system, both single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWCNTs) can be used for targeting anticancer drugs in tissues and organs, where the high therapeutic effect is necessary. Benefits of the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in drug delivery systems are; avoiding solvent usage and reducing the side effects. Therefore, the present review article described about achievement of SWCNTs and MWCNTs to deliver the anticancer drugs with different cancerous cell lines.

Keywords: Cancer cell lines, carbon nanotubes, drug delivery system

How to cite this article:
Dineshkumar B, Krishnakumar K, Bhatt A R, Paul D, Cherian J, John A, Suresh S. Single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes based drug delivery system: Cancer therapy: A review. Indian J Cancer 2015;52:262-4

How to cite this URL:
Dineshkumar B, Krishnakumar K, Bhatt A R, Paul D, Cherian J, John A, Suresh S. Single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes based drug delivery system: Cancer therapy: A review. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Jul 5];52:262-4. Available from:

 » Introduction Top

Cancer is the second most common disease responsible for greatest mortality with about 0.3 million deaths per year.[1] Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have become strongest applicant in the field of cancer biology. Carbon nanotube (CNT) made up of several graphitic shells. It is tubular in shape and discovered by Lijima in the year of 1991.[2] Nanocarriers (CNTs)-based drug delivery approach are useful in cancer diagnosis and therapy [Figure 1]. Anti-cancer drugs loaded CNTs can accumulate drugs at the cancer sites due to the improved penetration effect. Many cancer therapeutic agents have not been successful because of their inadequate ability to reach the target tissue. Therefore, development of CNTs -based drug delivery system could be effective to deliver anti-cancer drugs in the target tissue. Both single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWCNT) [Figure 2] are used in drug delivery system. Several research works have been reported to deliver anti-cancer drugs from both single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWCNT).[3],[4] The cancer biological applications of CNTs are currently beneath strong investigation. In this paper we reviewed achievement of SWCNTs and MWCNTs to deliver the anticancer drugs with different cancerous cell lines.
Figure 1: Drug loaded carbon nanotubes with cancerous cell lines

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Figure 2: SWCNTs and MWCNTs carbon nanotubes

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CNTs architecture

Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical carbon molecules with new properties (excellent mechanical, electrical, chemical and biological properties. Two types of CNTs are available namely, single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). The structure of a SWCNT can be developed by wrapping a one-atom-thick layer of graphite into a seamless cylinder. MWCNTs contain multiple layers of graphite rolled and formed a tube shape having interlayer spacing of 3.4 Å.[5],[6]

CNTs on breast cancer cell lines

Breast cancer is the common malignancy type in women. The prevalence of breast cancer differs significantly around the world. Low prevalence of breast cancer was occurred in less-developed countries and peak prevalence in the more-developed countries.[7] Cell line studies are playing a very important part in the characterization of anti-cancer drugs and giving a basis for relationship with in vivo cancer studies. Many research work have been reported for anticancer activities against breast cancer using BT-474 and MCF-7 cell lines.[8],[9]

The BT-474 cells were isolated from a solid, invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. MCF-7 is a breast cancer cell line was isolated from a 69-year-old Caucasian woman. MCF-7 is the short form of Michigan Cancer Foundation-7 and it was recognized by Herbert Soule and co-workers. SWCNTs-based nanobomb agents can potentially killing human BT474 breast cancer cells without toxicity. SWCNT were prepared using a methane-based chemical-vapor-deposition process. BT474 breast cancer cell clusters were treated with a suspension of SWCNT. When near infrared light was introduced on the samples, explosions from SWCNT and nanobomb agent released from SWCNT and killing the BT474 breast cancer cells.[10] Paclitaxel loaded poly (ethylene glycol) (PEG)-graft-single walled CNT showed promising for cancer therapeutics by effectively killing MCF-7 breast cancer cells.[11] SWNT-PEG- -integrin alpha (v) beta (3) monoclonal antibody (Mab) was developed and this showed potential candidate by killing MCF-7 breast cancer cells and SWNT-PEG-Mab might be suitable for drug delivery in cancer targeting therapy.[12] The HER2 IgY-SWNT complex could be used for both detection and selective photothermal ablation of receptor-positive breast cancer cells. Therefore, the unique intrinsic properties of SWNTs combined with high specificity and sensitivity of IgY antibodies can lead to novel approaches for cancer detection and therapy.[13]

CNTs on prostate cancer cell lines

Globally prostate cancer is the sixth leading cancer and cause death in men. Prostate cancer is common in the developed world.In vitro cancer studies against prostate cancer was performed using PC3 (PC-3) and DU145 human prostate cancer cell lines. These cell lines are the “classical” cell lines of prostatic cancer. PC3 cells have high metastatic potential compared to DU145 cells which have a moderate metastatic potential. PC3 cell lines were originally derived from advanced androgen independent bone metastasis prostate cancer. The DU145 cell line was derived from brain metastasis.[14] Cisplatin (Cis-Diamminedichloroplatinum (CDDP) – a platinum-based chemotherapy drug) implanted to single-wall CNTs (SWCNTs). These CDD-SWCNTs discharged the cisplatin and showing anticancer activity against prostate cancer cells (PC3 and DU145).[15] Gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) – multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) were found to be soluble and toxic. It could enter androgen dependent prostate cancer cells, exhibiting dose-dependent cytotoxicity in DU 145 cells.[16]

CNTs on brain cancer cell lines

In US, children and adolescents younger are diagnosed with malignant brain cancer.In vitro model anti-cancer activity was performed against SH-SY5Y and U87 brain cancer cell lines. SH-SY5Y cell line was isolated from a four year-old female with neuroblastoma. U-87 MG is a human primary glioblastoma cell line. This cells were obtained from a stage four cancer patient.[17] The effect of physicochemical characters of MWCNTs in cultured human neuroblastoma cells was investigated. After incubation of CNT in the SH-SY5Y (human neuroblastoma cell line), containing pluronic F127 solution showed minimal loss of cell viability with pure MWCNTs (99% purity). A decrease in cell proliferation was observed in 97% pure MWCNT and acid-treated MWCNT.[18] Novel functional SWCNTs based on an integrin αvβ3 monoclonal antibody were developed. SWNT was modified with phospholipid-bearing polyethylene glycol (PL-PEG). Then PL-PEG functionalized SWNT was conjugated with protein A. SWNT-integrin alpha (v) beta (3) monoclonal antibody system (SWNT-PEG-mAb) was subjected to in vitro model to evaluate the anti-cancer activity against U87MG cell lines. The results indicated that SWNT-PEG-mAb showed high targeting efficiency on integrin alpha (v) beta (3)-positive U87MG cells. Therefore this study indicated that SWNT-PEG-mAb could be a potential candidate for cancer drug delivery system and therapy.[19]

CNTs on kidney cancer cell lines

In UK, kidney cancer is the eighth common cancer in men. PC12 and HEK 293 cell lines are useful for studying neurotoxicity of drugs or CNTs. PC12 cell line was obtained from pheochromocytoma of the rat adrenal medulla. Human Embryonic Kidney 293 cells (HEK 293 cells) are obtained from human embryonic kidney cells grown in tissue culture. HEK 293 cells are very easy to grow and widely used in cancer biology research.[20] The effect of SWCNTs on PC12 cells (in vitro model for neurotoxicity study) was investigated nervous system in vitro. SWCNT inhibited proliferation significantly in PC12 cells in time and dose-dependent manner.[21] An effect of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) on human HEK293 cells was investigated. This study indicated that SWCNTs showed inhibition on HEK293 cell proliferation in a time and dose-dependent manner by down-regulation of G1-associated cdks and cyclins and up-regulation of apoptosis-associated genes.[22]

CNTs on colon cancer cell lines

Colon cancer is occurred due to uncontrollable growth of colon cells. Globally more than one million people are affected by colorectal cancer yearly. MC38 murine colon carcinoma cell line was used to study about anticancer activity against colon cancer in an in vitro model. Water-soluble, paclitaxel (PAX) loaded carbon nanotubes are fabricated and their different cellular interactions was studied in poly (2-(dimethylamino) ethyl methacrylate-co-methacrylic acid). This study indicated that effective anti-cancer effect was observed against colon cancer cells.[23] Embryonic stem cells (ESC) as cellular agents (it can stimulate the biological systems to destroy cancer cells) combined with MWCNTs showed anticancer activity against MC38 cancer cells.[24]

CNTs on lung cancer cell lines

Lung cancer is a disease characterized by abnormal cell growth in lung tissues. The common cause of lung cancer is due to long-term exposure of tobacco smoke. Presently, CNT-based lung targeting approaches have been used for the treatment of lung cancer. Effects of MWCNTs on IL-8 expression in human lung epithelial cells (A549 pneumocytes and D384 astrocytoma cells) were investigated and evaluated the roles of nuclear factor kB (NF-kB) and oxidative stress in CNT-induced cytokine production. The study indicated that nuclear factor kB (NF-kB) and oxidative stress showed significant contribution in MWCNT-induced cytokine production due to pro-inflammatory effects of CNT.[25]

 » Conclusion Top

The present review paper highlights about achievement of SWCNTs and MWCNTs to deliver anticancer drugs in an in vitro models.In vitro experiments models provide knowledge about drug half-life, bioavailability and its first-pass metabolism. The use of SWCNTs and MWCNTs for delivery of anti-cancer drugs is a major development in the field of nanotechnology. Conventional management of cancer with chemotherapeutic agents can cause adverse effect on healthy tissues. Therefore, CNTs -based efficient drug delivery systems must be developed to deliver the anti-cancer drugs. Even though nano-technology is well developed, but still it is far from clinical applications due to the several challenges. However, SWCNTs and MWCNT-based drug delivery systems are promising approach to deliver anti-cancer drugs in targeted organs or tissues. The observation and results of this review paper indicated that SWCNTs and MWCNT-based drug delivery systems might be effective to provide adequate scientific data for clinical support.

 » References Top

Ali I, Wani WA, Saleem K. Cancer scenario in India with future perspectives. Cancer Ther 2011;8:56-70.  Back to cited text no. 1
Bianco A, Kostarelos K, Prato M. Applications of carbon nanotubes in drug delivery. Curr Opin Chem Biol 2005;9:674-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ji SR, Liu C, Zhang B, Yang F, Xu J, Long J, et al. Carbon nanotubes in cancer diagnosis and therapy. Biochim Biophys Acta 2010;1806:29-35.  Back to cited text no. 3
Vashist SK, Zheng D, Pastorin G, Al-Rubeaan K, Luong JH, Sheu FS. Delivery of drugs and biomolecules using carbon nanotubes. Carbon 2011;49:4077-97.  Back to cited text no. 4
Shi Z, Lian Y, Zhou X, Gu Z, Zhang Y, Iijima S, et al. Mass-production of single-wall carbon nanotubes by arc discharge method. Carbon 1999;7:1449-53.  Back to cited text no. 5
Cheng C, Muller KH, Koziol KK, Skepper JN, Midgley PA, Welland ME, et al. Toxicity and imaging of multi-walled carbon nanotubes in human macrophage cells. Biomaterials 2009;30:4152-60.  Back to cited text no. 6
World Cancer Report. International Agency for Research on Cancer. 2008. Availbale from: [Last accessed on 2012 July 25].  Back to cited text no. 7
Ravikumar S, Fredimosesb M, Gnanadesigana M. Anticancer property of sediment actinomycetes against MCF–7 and MDA–MB–231 cell lines. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed 2012;2:92-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
Shi DF, Bradshaw TD, Wrigley S, McCall CJ, Lelieveld P, Fichtner I, et al. Antitumor benzothiazoles. 3. Synthesis of 2-(4-aminophenyl) benzothiazoles and evaluation of their activities against breast cancer cell lines in vitro and in vivo. J Med Chem1 996;16:3375-84.  Back to cited text no. 9
Panchapakesan B, Lu S, Sivakumar K, Teker K, Cesarone G, Wickstrom E. Single-wall carbon nanotube nanobomb agents for killing breast cancer cells. Nanobiotechnol 2005;1:133-9.  Back to cited text no. 10
Lay CL, Liu HQ, Tan HR, Liu Y. Delivery of paclitaxel by physically loading onto poly (ethylene glycol) (PEG)-graft-carbon nanotubes for potent cancer therapeutics. Nanotechnology 2010;21:065101.  Back to cited text no. 11
Ou Z, Wu B, Xing D, Zhou F, Wang H, Tang Y. Functional single-walled carbon nanotubes based on an integrin alpha v beta 3 monoclonal antibody for highly efficient cancer cell targeting. Nanotechnology 2009;11:105102.  Back to cited text no. 12
Xiao Y, Gao X, Taratula O, Treado S, Urbas A, Holbrook RD, et al. Anti-HER2 IgY antibody-functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes for detection and selective destruction of breast cancer cells. BMC Cancer 2009;9:1-11.  Back to cited text no. 13
Baade PD, Youlden DR, Krnjacki LJ. International epidemiology of prostate cancer: Geographical distribution and secular trends. Mol Nutr Food Res 2009;53:171-84.  Back to cited text no. 14
Tripisciano C, Kraemer K, Taylor A, Borowiak-Palen E. Single-wall carbon nanotubes based anticancer drug delivery system. Chem Phys Lett 2009;478:200-5.  Back to cited text no. 15
Yu BZ, Yang JS, Li WX.In vitro capability of multi-walled carbon nanotubes modified with gonadotrophin releasing hormone on killing cancer cells. Carbon 2007;45:1921-7.  Back to cited text no. 16
Gurney JG, Smith MA, Bunin GR. CNS and miscellaneous intracranial and intraspinal neoplasms. National Cancer Institute, SEER Pediatric Monograph, 51-63. Available from: [last accessed on 2012 Sep 29].  Back to cited text no. 17
Vittorio O, Raffa V, Cuschieri A. Influence of purity and surface oxidation on cytotoxicity of multiwalled carbon nanotubes with human neuroblastoma cells. Nanomed Nanotechnol Biol Med 2009;5:424-43.  Back to cited text no. 18
Ou Z, Wu B, Xing D, Zhou F, Wang H, Tang Y. Functional single-walled carbon nanotubes based on an integrin alpha v beta 3 monoclonal antibody for highly efficient cancer cell targeting. Nanotechnology 2009;11:105102.  Back to cited text no. 19
Chiu KC, Lin MC, Liang YC, Chen CY. Renal carcinosarcoma: Case report and review of literatur. Ren Fail 2008;30:1034-9.  Back to cited text no. 20
Wang J, Sun P, Bao Y, Liu J, An L. Cytotoxicity of single-walled carbon nanotubes on PC12 cells. ToxicolIn Vitro 2011;25:242-50.  Back to cited text no. 21
Cui D, Tian F, Ozkan CS, Wang M, Gao H. Effect of single wall carbon nanotubes on human HEK293 cells. Toxicol Lett 2005;15:73-85.  Back to cited text no. 22
Lee Y, Geckeler KE. Cellular interactions of a water-soluble supramolecular polymer complex of carbon nanotubes with human epithelial colorectal adenocarcinoma cells. Macromol Biosci 2012;12:1060-7.  Back to cited text no. 23
Mocan T, Iancu C. Effective colon cancer prophylaxis in mice using embryonic stem cells and carbon nanotubes. Int J Nanomedicine 2011;6:1945-54.  Back to cited text no. 24
Ye SF, Wu YH, Hou ZQ, Zhang QQ. ROS and NF-kappaB are involved in upregulation of IL-8 in A549 cells exposed to multi-walled carbon nanotubes. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2009;6;379:643-8.  Back to cited text no. 25


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