Phosphorus-32, a clinically available drug, inhibits cancer growth by inducing DNA double-strand breakage

Yulan Cheng, Ana P. Kiess, Joseph M. Herman, Martin G. Pomper, Stephen J. Meltzer, John M. Abraham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Radioisotopes that emit electrons (beta particles), such as radioiodine, can effectively kill target cells, including cancer cells. Aqueous 32P[PO4] is a pure beta-emitter that has been used for several decades to treat non-malignant human myeloproliferative diseases. 32P [PO4] was directly compared to a more powerful pure beta-emitter, the clinically important 90Y isotope. In vitro, 32P[PO4] was more effective at killing cells than was the more powerful isotope 90Y (P ≤ 0.001) and also caused substantially more double-stranded DNA breaks than did 90Y. In vivo, a single low-dose intravenous dose of aqueous elemental 32P significantly inhibited tumor growth in the syngeneic murine cancer model (P ≤ 0.001). This effect is exerted by direct incorporation into nascent DNA chains, resulting in double-stranded breakage, a unique mechanism not duplicatable by other, more powerful electron-emitting radioisotopes. 32P[PO4] should be considered for human clinical trials as a potential novel anti-cancer drug.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0128152
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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