Targeting Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells via Cancer Cell Membrane-Wrapped Nanoparticles


  • Avery Wolverton, Biomedical Engineering, University of Delaware

Faculty Mentor(s)

  • Emily Day, Biomedical Engineering, University of Delaware


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a subtype that constitutes 15-20% of all breast cancer cases.1 It is characterized by the absence of estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 receptor expression, making it unsusceptible to conventional hormone-targeted therapies that have proven effective in other subtypes of breast cancer.1 Furthermore, conventional TNBC treatment strategies such as surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy have adverse side effects and lack precise tumor-targeting capabilities. Consequently, there is an urgent need to develop effective treatments for TNBC to improve patient outcomes. One potential treatment approach is the utilization of light-sensitive nanoparticles (NPs) like silica-core gold shell nanoshells (NS) for photothermal therapy (PTT). This technique involves the administration of light-sensitive NPs into the bloodstream, and upon reaching the tumor site, these NPs are externally irradiated with a near infra-red laser light, triggering a process that converts light into heat that is harnessed to thermally ablate the tumor.2 However, one significant challenge to the success of PTT is effectively targeting the NPs to the tumor.2 Recent studies have revealed a promising approach to enhance the delivery of NPs to tumors by wrapping the NPs with cancer cell-derived membranes. This biomimetic approach takes advantage of two key properties found on the surface of cancer cell membranes: “markers of self” proteins that shield the NPs from immune detection and clearance as well as “self-recognition” proteins that promote precise binding to cancer cells.3 Here, we present results of in vitro studies that confirm the successful synthesis of biomimetic 4T1 murine TNBC cell membrane-wrapped gold nanoshells (4T1-NS) that successfully target 4T1 TNBC cells over non-cancerous breast epithelial cells, EpH4-EV cells. These findings provide the groundwork for a promising breakthrough in the field of targeted cancer therapies, bringing us one step closer to improving outcomes for TNBC patients.


  1. Yin, L, et al. Breast Cancer Res. 2020.
  2. Riley RS, et al. WIRES Nanomed Nanobiotechnol. 2017.
  3. Aboeleneen, SB, et al. Nano Convergence. 2022.