Non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma effectively kills cancer cells, but it cannot selectively kill cancer cells. The authors targeted NEU (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) protein, which is frequently over-expressed in the cell membrane of melanoma cells, using anti-NEU antibody-labeled gold nanoparticles. The labeled nanoparticles preferentially targeted melanoma cells rather than normal keratinocytes. After the addition of labeled gold nanoparticles to melanoma and normal keratinocyte cells, both cells were exposed to non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma. The death rate of melanoma cells was significantly higher than that of normal keratinocyte cells; many vacuoles, indicative of cell death, were observed in melanoma cells treated with anti-NEU antibody labeled gold nanoparticles and plasma. This selective cancer cell death was attributed to the selective destruction of NEU protein and a downstream effector of NEU. Our study findings show that treatment with a combination of non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma and anti-NEU antibody-labeled gold nanoparticles effectively and selectively kills melanoma cells.
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