• multi-walled carbon nanotubes;
  • PAMAM dendrimers;
  • doxorubicin;
  • pH-responsive delivery;
  • folic-acid targeting


We report the use of multifunctional dendrimer-modified multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) for targeted and pH-responsive delivery of doxorubicin (DOX) into cancer cells. In this study, amine-terminated generation 5 poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM) dendrimers modified with fluorescein isothiocyanate (FI) and folic acid (FA) were covalently linked to acid-treated MWCNTs, followed by acetylation of the remaining dendrimer terminal amines to neutralize the positive surface potential. The formed multifunctional MWCNTs (MWCNT/G5.NHAc-FI-FA) were characterized via different techniques. Then, the MWCNT/G5.NHAc-FI-FA was used to load DOX for targeted and pH-responsive delivery to cancer cells overexpressing high-affinity folic acid receptors (FAR). We showed that the MWCNT/G5.NHAc-FI-FA enabled a high drug payload and encapsulation efficiency both up to 97.8% and the formed DOX/MWCNT/G5.NHAc-FI-FA complexes displayed a pH-responsive release property with fast DOX release under acidic environment and slow release at physiological pH conditions. Importantly, the DOX/MWCNT/G5.NHAc-FI-FA complexes displayed effective therapeutic efficacy, similar to that of free DOX, and were able to target to cancer cells overexpressing high-affinity FAR and effectively inhibit the growth of the cancer cells. The synthesized multifunctional dendrimer-modified MWCNTs may be used as a targeted and pH-responsive delivery system for targeting therapy of different types of cancer cells.