Iron oxide nanoparticles inhibit tumour growth by inducing pro-inflammatory macrophage polarization in tumour tissues

Saeid Zanganeh, Gregor Hutter, Ryan Spitler, Olga Lenkov, Morteza Mahmoudi, Aubie Shaw, Jukka Sakari Pajarinen, Hossein Nejadnik, Stuart Goodman, Michael Moseley, Lisa Marie Coussens, Heike Elisabeth Daldrup-Link

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

489 Scopus citations


Until now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved iron supplement ferumoxytol and other iron oxide nanoparticles have been used for treating iron deficiency, as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging and as drug carriers. Here, we show an intrinsic therapeutic effect of ferumoxytol on the growth of early mammary cancers, and lung cancer metastases in liver and lungs. In vitro, adenocarcinoma cells co-incubated with ferumoxytol and macrophages showed increased caspase-3 activity. Macrophages exposed to ferumoxytol displayed increased mRNA associated with pro-inflammatory Th1-type responses. In vivo, ferumoxytol significantly inhibited growth of subcutaneous adenocarcinomas in mice. In addition, intravenous ferumoxytol treatment before intravenous tumour cell challenge prevented development of liver metastasis. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and histopathology studies showed that the observed tumour growth inhibition was accompanied by increased presence of pro-inflammatory M1 macrophages in the tumour tissues. Our results suggest that ferumoxytol could be applied â € off label' to protect the liver from metastatic seeds and potentiate macrophage-modulating cancer immunotherapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)986-994
Number of pages9
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge support from the National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI), grant numbers R21CA156124 and R21CA176519, and the Department of Defense BCRP Era of Hope Scholar Expansion Award (BC10412). S.Z. was supported by the Stanford Cancer Imaging Training (SCIT) T32 fellowship programme. We also thank the Stanford Center for Innovation and In-Vivo Imaging (SCI 3) supported by the NCI Cancer Center (P30 CA124435–02) and NCI ICMIC (P50 CA114747) for providing the infrastructure for mouse imaging. G.H. was supported by a Swiss National Science Foundation Grant P-155336 ( and the Novartis Foundation for Medical-Biological Research ( In addition, we thank E. Misquez for her excellent administrative assistance throughout this project, D. Yang for assistance with cell culture and M. Winslow’s laboratory (Stanford University) for their generous gift of the SCLC KP1-GFP-Luc cell lines.

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