A nanostructured matrices assessment to study drug distribution in solid tumor tissues by mass spectrometry imaging

Silvia Giordano, Valentina Pifferi, Lavinia Morosi, Melinda Morelli, Luigi Falciola, Giuseppe Cappelletti, Sonja Visentin, Simonetta A. Licandro, Roberta Frapolli, Massimo Zucchetti, Roberta Pastorelli, Laura Brunelli, Maurizio D’Incalci, Enrico Davoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The imaging of drugs inside tissues is pivotal in oncology to assess whether a drug reaches all cells in an adequate enough concentration to eradicate the tumor. Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MALDI-MSI) is one of the most promising imaging techniques that enables the simultaneous visualization of multiple compounds inside tissues. The choice of a suitable matrix constitutes a critical aspect during the development of a MALDI-MSI protocol since the matrix ionization efficiency changes depending on the analyte structure and its physico-chemical properties. The objective of this study is the improvement of the MALDI-MSI technique in the field of pharmacology; developing specifically designed nanostructured surfaces that allow the imaging of different drugs with high sensitivity and reproducibility. Among several nanomaterials, we tested the behavior of gold and titanium nanoparticles, and halloysites and carbon nanotubes as possible matrices. All nanomaterials were firstly screened by co-spotting them with drugs on a MALDI plate, evaluating the drug signal intensity and the signal-to-noise ratio. The best performing matrices were tested on control tumor slices, and were spotted with drugs to check the ion suppression effect of the biological matrix. Finally; the best nanomaterials were employed in a preliminary drug distribution study inside tumors from treated mice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number71
Pages (from-to)7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 21 2017


  • Cancer imaging
  • Gold nanoparticles
  • Halloysite
  • Mass spectrometry imaging
  • TiO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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